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Community pulls together in wake of fire

By Jennifer Peryam - jperyam@h-ponline.com

WARREN — Neighbors helping neighbors. That’s what it’s all about in the community of Warren after last month’s fire that devastated a downtown building. Folks have stepped up to help persons affected by the fire. They’re also hosting two fundraisers Jan. 21 to benefit the Warren Fire Department.

Fire broke out at 216. N. Wayne St. on Dec. 22, prompting fire crews from 10 area departments to respond. The crews worked for 12 hours to put the fire out. The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental, according to Warren Fire Chief Lee Poulson. 

Cynthia Smith-Wartzok, Pulse Opera House director, watched the firefighters at work that day.

“They are the people who rush in when we are all rushing out and I was amazed at how they tried to save the building,” Smyth-Wartzok said. “As the fire was happening I was watching it and all I could think of was how brave the firefighters were. These are our friends and neighbors and volunteers who keep us safe and we want to help them.”

Smyth-Wartzok spearheaded the fundraiser being put on by the town of Warren and the Pulse Opera House to be held from from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 21 at The Pulse Opera House, 127 N. Wayne St., Warren. Free will donations will get you in the door. It is open to the community.

A spaghetti dinner has also been planned at Solid Rock United Methodist Church, 485 Bennett Drive, Warren, on the night of the benefit from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. The menu includes spaghetti, breadsticks, salad, dessert and drinks. A free will donation will be accepted with proceeds also going to the Warren Fire Department.

The fundraiser will include the cast of Elf Jr. singing a Blues Brother Act, as well as other performances. There will be original music performed at the show.

Thom Grieving, who played the character “Buddy” in the Elf production at the Pulse Opera house said he is glad to be a part of the benefit.

“This is important to me because it is a great way for the Pulse family and the community to come together to show our support and gratitude for our incredible firefighters in the area,” Grieving said.

Poulson said the department is thankful for the fundraiser.

“We need to replace a hose, radios and a ladder that were damaged during the fire,” Poulson said.

He said it is fantastic to have the support from the community and the fire department is appreciative.

Fire victims assisted

Apartments in the upstairs of the building were destroyed in the blaze. Three families, consisting of six people, were displaced by the fire. Building owner Jon Frettinger was among them.

Alan Laws, Warren Area Ministerial Association president, said the group assisted the fire victims in various ways. 

“We helped them find housing, get furniture and put some of them up in hotels until they got housing,” Laws said. 

He said the organization tries to help everyone in the community as the need arises. The organization depends on funding from the community.

One of the families has moved to a rental home in Warren, another has moved to an apartment in Warren. Frettinger was also forced to relocate.

“We are glad no one was hurt and we appreciate what everyone has done,” Frettinger said. He said it has not yet been determined what will happen to the building. It is currently fenced in with debris and bricks. 

D and D Bike Shop on the first floor also succumbed to the flames. Alma Deweese, D and D Bike Shop office manager, said they suffered extensive damages.

“We had over 200 bicycles damaged, an air compressor, cash register and water cooler,” Deweese said. 

While the retail business is stalled for the moment, people can still get their bicycles repaired at Deweese Software and Appliances, 231 N. Wayne St.