SIDNEY — A building in downtown Sidney was engulfed in flames Monday night after a vehicle struck a natural gas line, igniting the massive fire. Fire departments from all over Shelby County responded to a call from the Sidney Fire Department to assist with the fire.
Ryan Joseph Cathcart, 36, of Sidney, was charged with one count of driving under the influence, one count of DUI second offense in 20 years with refusal and failure to control/weaving by Sidney Police after his Dodge pickup truck struck a natural gas line and building at 110 N. Ohio Ave. Both DUI charges are first degree misdemeanors. The failure to control charge is a minor misdemeanor.
He appeared in Sidney Municipal Court Tuesday morning where Judge Duane Goettemoeller accepted his not guilty plea, approved a pretrial conference and set a $2,000 own recognizance bond. He is being represented by Justin Griffis.
He was not injured in the crash and was transported to the Shelby County Jail until his arraignment in court.
The building is occupied by a local ceramics store with another business using the upper floors for storage. The natural gas line on the exterior of the building had ruptured, ignited and the gas fed fire quickly extended to the attic of the three story building.
“To the best of our knowledge,” said Sidney Assistant Fire Chief Cameron Haller, “the driver veered off the road and hit the building. He struck the gas main which goes into the structure. The vehicle sheered off the pipes and either a spark or friction ignited the gas.
“The most common thing to compare it to is a blow torch,” said Cameron of the quick starting fire. “There was straight natural gas under pressure and it ignited.”
According to the press release, Sidney Fire was dispatched at 10:56 p.m. Firefighters were able to confirm everyone had evacuated the structure. Sidney Police assisted residents of an adjacent building to evacuate the structure.
Firefighters battled the well-involved fire for approximately four hours. Interior fire operations were stopped when the roof became unstable. Four aerial ladder trucks were utilized to control and contain the fire from the exterior.
The building received heavy fire, smoke and water damage throughout the structure. Adjacent buildings received smoke and water damage.
A “box alarm” was called for all off-duty Sidney Firefighters, as well as a fourth alarm for help from Botkins, Anna, Kettlersville, Lockington, Houston, Fort Loramie, Piqua, New Bremen, Port Jefferson, and Jackson Center Fire Departments. Anna, Houston, Fort Loramie and Perry Port Salem EMS Departments were also called. Several medical calls were dispatched during the structure fire and mutual aid EMS departments responded to those calls.
“We appreciate all the help with mutual aid from the departments within Shelby County and those out of the county from Piqua and New Bremen,” said Haller. “We also had four ambulance services who ran three calls for us while we were fighting the fire.”
Haller said between 80 to 100 firefighters were on the scene battling the fire.
“We started letting the other departments go around 3:30 to 4 a.m.,” said Haller. “We let them go in stages. The first ones here were the ones who left first.
“All the chiefs and emergency personnel worked well together. I’m blessed to be part of the emergency services community,” said Haller.
One firefighter was injured while fighting the fire, said Haller. He was treated and released for a shoulder injury.
DP&L and Vectren were called to the scene to secure electric and gas to the structure. There were no reported injuries other than one firefighter sustained a minor injury during the incident.
The impact of the pickup truck with the natural gas line on the exterior of the building has been determined to be the cause of the fire.
A dollar amount for damage caused by the fire hasn’t been determined yet.
“We were up all night and we want to study that,” said Haller. “I want to get back with Sharon (Eikenberry) because she had costumes and property there. I have no idea what they’re worth.”
Haller said there is potential for the building to be saved. That determination, he said, will be made by the insurance company.
The American Red Cross was on site, said Haller, providing food, snacks, water and coffee for the firefighters. Sidney Alive Executive Director Amy Breinrich and Sidney Historic Theatre/Raise the Roof for the Arts Executive Director Sarah Barr also provided water to the emergency services personnel. They are also helping Eikenberry with her needs for the upcoming recital.
Haller said the Stolle Warehouse fire in the early 2000s was the last time the city has needed the help of all fire departments in the county to fight a fire.
“The last large fire we’ve had in downtown Sidney was the Goodwin Furniture fire in 1987,” said Haller.
According to a report filed by the Sidney Police Department, Cathcart told officers he was driving away from the Rainbow when two people — one on a bicycle and one walking — walked in front of him in the street. Cathcart said he swerved out the way to avoid hitting them and crashed into the building.
Officer Rob Hurd and another officer got the remaining tenants out of the neighboring buildings. Hurd attempted to locate witnesses and the pedestrians who allegedly were in the street, but he was unable to locate anyone.
Hurd transported Cathcart to the police department where he refused to take any tests. Cathcart was reportedly belligerent in the intoxilyzer room and three other officers had to assist Hurd in containing him. He was then transported to the Shelby County Jail.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.