By AMY GAREIS
News-Herald Staff Writer

CADIZ – A century-old building was destroyed in a late afternoon blaze Friday, and a grease fire is apparently to blame.
Crews from Cadiz, Hopedale, Scio, Jewett, New Athens, Harrisville, Adena, Unionport and Wintersville were called to the scene at 117 W. Market St. around 3:30 p.m., where the top floor of the former First National Bank of Cadiz was engulfed. Witnesses claimed French fries left on a stove ignited a grease fire, but the exact cause is under investigation. What is known is occupants of the four apartment buildings inside must look for a new home and the building’s owners, who also operated a gun shop on the first floor, are left to pick up the pieces.
Tom Cole and his wife, Vicki, had owned the building for six years. He said they moved from North Carolina to open their gun business and had remodeled the building.
“We put a lot of work into the building to try to make it nice,” he said.
Cole added he kept extinguishers and smoke detectors inside and HUD officials had inspected it.
Resident Kevin Mason claimed the female resident of the burning apartment had stopped at his place across the hall and allegedly left food on the stove. Mason said they first noticed smoke in the hallway and the woman opened the door to find flames in the apartment. She tried to grab an extinguisher but it was too late. Mason added that he’s without a home and some main necessities.
“I lost my medication. I take five shots a day,” he noted.
The woman was visibly shaken as she was comforted by friends and watched events unfold from across the street on the Harrison County Courthouse grounds. Crowds of spectators also looked on, and at one point they were moved back for fear of ammunition exploding inside the Coles’ gun shop. However, Cole said there was no hazard.
“The ammunition is fine. The main reason I bought this building was for the big vault for security,” he added. “The upper floors are separated [from the first floor where the gun shop was located] by concrete. There was never any explosive danger. It is a brick building and it’s very solid.”
Firefighters also evacuated occupants next door and there were fears the flames could spread to the adjoining structures. Police closed off Main and Market streets to traffic and rerouted vehicles while crews battled the flames. At times, a mix of white and black smoke billowed into the graying heavens and bright orange flames licked the air. The evening sky could be seen through the gutted interior of the third floor once the flames were put out.
Barbara Madzia, who owns a neighboring structure and operates a barbershop, said she and her daughter were in the middle of cutting hair when they were told to leave.
“They made us evacuate. We were both halfway done but they told us we had to get out,” she said, adding the young boy with the unfinished do got a free haircut out of the deal.
Firefighters knocked in the glass doors of the former pharmacy next door to check for occupants but no one was found. Other buildings nearby contained more apartments plus the county Republican Headquarters and the former Mr. Fish and Cool Beans Café, but they escaped unscathed.
There were other concerns about the front wall of the bank building leaning, as well as the wooden frame of the Fisher building that is overlaid with brick. By 6 p.m., crews were putting out hotspots and beginning to depart. “This is a gloomy day for Cadiz,” said village Councilman Larry Sickle as he looked on. “It was one of the most beautiful buildings in town.”
Citizen Scott Chancey was upset because he said his family had recollections of living there.
“My mom had memories in that building. This is terrible.”
As for Cole, he says he will continue forward.
“What else am I going to do? My life’s in this building,” he concluded. “I’ll press on.”