$750,000 loss estimated from Keystone Adolescent Center fire - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio


$750,000 loss estimated from Keystone Adolescent Center fire

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Dramatic video overnight as fire engulfs the Keystone Adolescent Center in West Salem Township just before midnight.

Seventeen students and two staff members escaped to safety wearing just the clothes on their backs and pushing a medicine cart needed for those students who are diabetic.

Bill Brown is the Assistant Fire Chief for the West Salem Township Fire Department, "We tried to have crews enter the building initially, but once we saw the flames come through the roof we knew we had to hit it from the outside.  It becomes a defensive type of exterior attack."

The massive blaze was quickly upgraded to four-alarms with at least 12 fire departments from Pennsylvania and Ohio lending manpower and other essentials.

"There's a lack of water, there's not a hydrant system here.  So we had to tanker all the water in," Assistant Fire Chief Brown said.

By daylight the devastation was evident.  The residential school building with eight classrooms, a residential section and a living room area, opened up 24 years ago to work with troubled an at-risk youth.

The building is now a total loss estimated at approximately $750,000.

But Co-Founder Bob Gentile says what breaks his heart is not only what the school has lost but what the children have lost, "The kids lost everything that they had.  They lost their clothes and their toiletries and their footballs, basketballs, all the things that they played with everyday."

However, Gentile says there's no question they'll rebuild, "It's just like we tell the kids everyday, you've got to have a good attitude.  You've got to stay positive.  You can only change certain things and we're going to come back bigger, better and stronger than ever, and we're going to have a positive attitude and we're going to continue to help troubled kids do better in school and better in life."

A steady stream of people who live in the area stopped by the school that has little more than a shell of a structure remaining.

Many of the community members wanted to know what they could do to help and how they could donate.

Gentile says the students impacted by the fire were boys and girls from ages 12 to 18, and they could use clothes, toiletries and even footballs, basketballs and board games to give them something to do in their down time.

A former student was among those who stopped by to offer her assistance, but Stariel Beler of Sharon who is now a senior with the Keystone program was devastated to see the middle school reduced to ashes.

"I had a lot of my own mental abuse back at my home and they helped me find a new home to live in.  They were my second family away fro home.  The home I didn't have," Beler said.

Donations will gladly be accepted for a group of child who have already lost so much.

If you would like to make a donation you can drop it off at the Keystone Adolescent Center administrative office at 60 South Race Street in Greenville.

The students have been relocated to another Keystone facility to live and will go to classes at the First Baptist Church in Greenville because they have a basement with a number of classrooms to serve as a temporary school setting until the end of the year.

The State Fire Marshal was on the scene Thursday morning and is working to determine what caused the fire.

According to the Assistant Fire Chief of West Salem Township at this point they don't suspect anything suspicious with the fire.

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