Response to this weekend’s devastating factory fire from safety services, utility departments, and residents was commended Monday by village council.
It took Wellington firefighters and crews from 15 other communities just over two hours to get the blaze under control Sunday morning.
Chiefs from seven departments helped with command.
“It was really organized chaos,” said Wellington fire chief Mike Wetherbee, but he said the operation proved incredibly efficient.
“We had electrical issues going on,” he said. “We had poles, wires, everything was on fire. The electrical department got up there and got everything shut down. The water guys were there and helped us get the pumps going. Our police were there right away and did a lot of vital work keeping crowds back and closing roads.”
His crew has benefited from an outpouring of generosity since the huge fire. “There’s more food at the station right now than you could eat in a lifetime,” Wetherbee told council.
The fire destroyed the factory as well as the building next door occupied by Salon Image. That blaze and two others occurring withing a two-hour time window Saturday night and Sunday morning have been ruled to be arson by the state fire marshal.
While keeping a positive tone, Wetherbee also touched on the grim reality of just how serious and large the factory fire was at its peak.
“In my career, I’ve never had the sick, helpless feeling I had for the first 20 minutes of that fire,” he said. “We were that close to losing a large part of downtown. Oberlin, Amherst, and Ashland got here very fast. One more instance of this community coming together.”
Police chief Tim Barfield said more Wellington officers were available to help because of the timing of the fire, which occurred during the department’s shift change.
He also praised citizens of Taylor Street who cleared their vehicles from the roadway within five minutes of being told of the dire situation.
“This is what we practice and train for,” Barfield said. “Our fire department amazes me. I want to thank all the departments from different communities that came out to help us. If you weren’t down there, it was a sight to see. It was crazy and insane. There’s wonderful people who live in this town. I watched restaurants make sandwiches and run them out to us with flashlights.”
“When we were done, I reached out to public works and said we can’t use the street again until we clean it,” he said. “There was so much debris, but they came right out and got it taken care of. I just can’t say how impressed I am with this incredible village.”
Wellington mayor Hans Schneider said he was moved Sunday by how long some firefighters had been on the job since the fire started.
“I was at the fire for about three hours and was just in awe of how all these other departments just moved in and worked together,” he said. “I saw chief Wetherbee’s wife at Harvest of the Arts and she told me her husband hasn’t been home since the call came out at midnight. That was 12 hours later.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.