UPDATED: Fire destroys vacant downtown building

Bellefontaine firefighters are investigating a suspicious blaze that destroyed a vacant downtown building.


The roof of a 208 W. Chillicothe Ave. building collapses sending a ball of fire outward as firefighters of the Bellefontaine Fire Department work from atop a ladder truck and on the ground to battle the blaze that broke out Wednesday evening. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)

Firefighters were called at 6:09 p.m. Wednesday to the 208 W. Chillicothe Ave. building that once housed a wealthy Bellefontaine family. It has most recently been used as an apartment building.

Chief Andy Fissel, who worked into the early morning hours today, reported last night that the building was vacant and that all utilities were turned off previously. He said the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office has been called in to assist with the investigation as local fire investigators are still working the scene of a May 6 arson fire that damaged Smith Jewelers in downtown Bellefontaine.

Several calls came into the 911 system reporting the fire. Within three minutes, firefighters were on the scene and fire was coming out the back side of the structure upon their arrival.

The fire spread into the roof which had multiple layers of shingles. The roofing material fueled the fire for hours.

Firefighters were on scene until 2:15 a.m. today putting out hot spots.

John McPherson of the Logan County Historical Society reported the home was built in the 1800s as a mansion for the Foos family who made their fortune in the cattle business.

In 1907, John R. Dugger, the owner and operator of the Big Four Restaurant at the depot, acquired the home and added the veranda and the big white pillars.

It has been used primarily as an apartment complex since the 1950s, maybe longer.

The listed owner of the property is Jennifer A. Van Horn of West Liberty, according to the Logan County Auditor’s Office records.

Firefighters from the West Liberty Fire Department were called to assist at the scene and officers of the Bellefontaine Police Department handled security around the perimeter as large crowds gathered to watch the building burn Wednesday evening.

Anyone with information about the fire can call the department at 599-6168.

The Examiner received several photos from citizens and staff shown in the slide show below: