Champion fire chief stands by decision to not send firefighters inside roller rink

Local News

Chief John Hickey said Sunday's fire was so bad, there would have been no reward to send a crew in

CHAMPION TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – There won’t be any New Year’s Eve parties at Champion Skate this year after a fire on Sunday destroyed the over 50-year-old business.

Champion Skate, a third-generation family business, now sits in ruin.

“It hurts,” said Merlin Brainard, the former owner.

His son owns it now but Brainard has fond memories of nights when 500 people would be skating.

He played a pivotal role in developing the place.

“Me and my uncle laid all the brick and block here,” Brainard said.

MORE: The Champion community remembers their roller rink

Many of those yellow bricks are now amongst the rubble. The fire chief, a state investigator and insurance investigator combed through the remains Monday.

Chief John Hickey said in the daylight, he could see why the fire had been so intense near the skate room.

“The skate room was a big one that we couldn’t really deal with the night of the fire because everything was melted together and caused a lot of issues.”

He stands by his decision about not sending firefighters inside.

“It’s not always black and white, what we do as a fire department,” Hickey said. “[People who question the approach] don’t see or know some of the decisions that we have to make quickly.”

Hickey was going to work on his report Monday, which will detail what the fire department saw when arriving Sunday morning and how it handled the situation.

The rest is in the hands of the fire marshal and private investigator.

“The primary job of state fire marshal is to determine was it arson or wasn’t it. They do not do cause or origin. That’s up to the private investigator.”

The original part of the building was from the 1960s.

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