Fourth of July fire

Jacob Lane and Mary Atkinson · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
While most of West Liberty celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks, local business H. D. Cline was dealing with a different kind of fire.

The farm equipment dealership's building near E. Second Street and N. Columbus Street caught on fire late in the afternoon, causing an estimated $150,000 in damage according to the owners.

"We're still assessing the worst of it; a lot of things received smoke and water damage, or were just burnt. Right now we don't know what we can save," said part owner Brent Phelps. "A lot of the metal spare parts have to be looked at, and most of the plastic melted."

He believes wooden pallets and crates acted as kindling for the flame, causing it to spread in the building. Diesel exhaust fluid tanks and hydraulic oil containers were melted, but nobody was hurt.

According to West Liberty Fire Chief Robbie Rock the cause of the fire is still under investigation. However, fireworks and fire crackers used to celebrate the holiday may be to blame according to part-owner of H. D. Cline Mike Cline.

He was allegedly told that some fireworks being used nearby ignited some cardboard containers. Witnesses he talked to said they were concerned all day about the use fireworks in the area.

The West Liberty Fired Department received a call at 7:35 p.m., arriving on scene four minutes later with three fire trucks. The Atalissa Fire Department arrived later, bringing two trucks.

"I was called and they told me my building was on fire," Cline said. "Well, when we got there the south end of it was charred pretty badly. I asked the fire department if they could get that door open somehow because there was a $140,000 truck sitting in the north end."

The vehicle, known as a boom truck, was purchased in November. It's used in field work and is the newest member of H. D. Cline's fleet. Cline told firemen there may be significant damage to the electrical components from the heat of the fire if nothing was done.

He said firemen tried to enter through the south end of the building to rescue it, but he told them there was just too much stuff in between the door and the truck.

That's when West Liberty Fireman Russ Roser rushed inside another entrance. Due to the fire he was unable to open the building's main door. With no key to quickly unlock the truck either, he smashed open the window and drove the vehicle through the building's closed door to save it.

"I was told it was going to have to come through the south door. They knew they couldn't just open it so they took the best avenue by just driving through it," said Cline

"We are grateful for the fast response from both of the fire departments," added Phelps. "They broke in to save the truck from being damaged and we're grateful for that."

The fire was contained to just the building. Neighboring houses and businesses remained safe, including H. D. Cline's other facilities.

However, the future of the building itself is unsure. Phelps believes the costs of fixing it may outweigh the costs of building a new one.

H. D. Cline is still waiting on final damage assessments, but is still operating smoothly in West Liberty and its other locations.
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