YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It was once a tuxedo shop, dry cleaner and even a bowling alley.
Now, the old Masters Tuxedo building is in ruins after it was destroyed by fire late Monday.
Flames broke out inside the building at about 11:15 p.m. Firefighters let the building burn, and crews will demolish it.
“We went defensively right away, established our positions right away and waited for the fire to come right to us. Crews are doing a great job keeping it in check, keeping the public as safe as possible,” said Batallion Chief John Lightly.
Lightly said the floor and roof collapsed as they were letting the structure burn.
Neighbors came out to help the firefighters as they kept the fire at bay.
“Citizens stopped by and dropped off several cases of water, granola bar snacks. We really appreciate that real nice gesture on their part,” Lightly said.
The Masters Tuxedo building was constructed in 1949, and the tuxedo business closed in early 2000 due to the declining economy in Youngstown.
The building has been empty for 17 years, but the former owners left dry cleaning materials, hundreds of tuxedos and a bowling alley inside.
A cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, but investigators will consider arson.
“There were no utilities to the building, late at night, so they’ll be looking at various causes,” Lightly said.
Even before this fire broke out, it was only a matter of days before the Masters Tuxedo building was going to be torn down.
The City of Youngstown has owned the building since 2010 when it was turned over after foreclosure.
Despite some interest over the years, no developers stepped forward to take over the building, so city workers were getting ready to tear the building down.
“We’re just trying to get it clean up, get the fire out, got our demo crews out here pulling some metal and building parts away and hopefully get this thing cleaned up,” said Michael Durkin, the city’s supervisor of housing code enforcement.
The city was going to tear down the front half of the building and let private contractors take care of the rest. Durkin said the city will end up doing much more of the work than originally intended, however.
“The city’s demolition crew is just removing the hazard and then we’ll move forward from there and hopefully get it cleaned up,” he said. “It will take some time, but we’ll get it cleaned up.”
Durkin said there was a dangerous mix of materials inside the basement.
That means firefighters will have to work at putting out smoldering hot spots for most of the day.