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Historic Wiard Plow Co. destroyed by fire

By Howard B. Owens

Here are a few photos I took while at the scene. I'll post more later. We've also received numerous reader-submitted photos and we will post those later. I'm heading back to the scene as soon as this post is up.

A firefighter said it looked like this fire broke out only feet from where this afternoon's fire was apparently set.

The back of the building is a total loss. There is a chance the front half will be saved.

A number of firefighters I spoke with said they were thankful it's a cold and damp night.  With the direction of the wind and embers in the air, Harvester Center could have been ignited as well, if not for cold and damp weather.

More later.

Robin Walters

Awesome pictures! Thank goodness for the Batavian. I was out of town for the afternoon, logged in to catch up on the news and saw this.. unbelieveable.. didn"t I just see a pic somewhere of a Wiard plow?

May 8, 2010, 10:50pm Permalink
George Richardson

Oh man, the early story looked like a near miss. Now it looks like BFD had a massive fail. Pretty Wiared coincidence if you ask me. I know you didn't ask.
Wiared weird to the max.

May 8, 2010, 11:36pm Permalink
Rebecca Beach

I agree with you Howard. So they had a small arson fire at the same site. Were they supposed to sit and watch the scene for the rest of the month for the criminals to return and repeat their offense??

May 9, 2010, 1:23am Permalink
Bea McManis

The building is almost all demolished now. They are spraying water on the rubble.
the fire department contained the fire they dealt with earlier in the day. I can't help but wonder if the same people started this one too.

May 9, 2010, 1:44am Permalink
Gary Spencer

What? How did Batavia have a "massive fall"? On a night when all area fire depts. were dealing with trees and wires down there are some young punks (allegedly) starting a fire, and this , to you, is a "massive fall" for the BFD? again I say--WHAT?

May 9, 2010, 6:51am Permalink
dennis wight

The "fail" is because the fire wasn't completely put out the first time these PAID professionals were there. Was the very expensive thermo imaging camera deployed to make sure the fire was completely out with no smoldering hot spots? They were very busy and got out of there as fast as they could without doing a complete job, as is expected from a PAID PROFESSIONAL.

May 9, 2010, 9:50am Permalink
George Richardson

Howard, I assumed it was a fire that reignited. Now that it appears to be arson, it is possible that the kids came back and were successful on the second attempt.
I take back what I said about the BFD if that was indeed the case.

May 9, 2010, 11:06am Permalink
C. M. Barons

A tragic loss of property: notably the historic Wiard Plow building. Ironic that days ago, an implement manufactured at same factory was pictured in this blog. Kudos to the stamina of our firefighters who- on such an otherwise challenging day- were able to protect this important complex from more extensive damage. Congratulations also to Howard and the Batavian for documenting the story so vividly. ...How sad the disconnect from our heritage manifest in the perseverance of those who found thrill in its destruction. The only solace is knowing there were no lives lost.

May 9, 2010, 11:13am Permalink
Lori Ann Santini

Mr.Richardson... I would like to point out with all bias aside that no matter how you look at this fire it was a tremendous save. I say that for a number of reasons:
1. No life was injured or lost.
2. The "Melton Building" as we olde timers know it as is still standing today even when embers landed on or near it.
3. Paid or Volunteer Fire Fighter, Salvation Army, Wyoming Correctional or others.... All the people working at that scene were vigilante in their duties. The weather was brutally cold from a personal perspective. At points the snow fall was very thick. This did not thwart any personel response.

Yes, the building had to be razed. It was a danger as it was in its very damaged state. However, The front buildings which are most symbolic of the company are still there. Sometimes we just have to realize that the outcome was determined long before the battle was waged (age, design and building materials). I say be greatful for the simpple facts and don't armchair quarterback the fire. Especially because there are witnesses that can confirm the first fire was out.

May 9, 2010, 12:11pm Permalink
Bob Price

So this means the bricks will continue to fall on the sidewalk???Hopefully whoever owns the building next to sidewalk will wake up and fix the bricks in front,so no one will be hurt. Thank you goes to the many fire/police personnel who had to battle this blaze in lousy May weather. We were very lucky that no other buildings on the eastern end of this fire went up,due the windy conditions. Thank you Howard for the many great photos and updates-and a thank you goes out the the resident of 400 Towers who had a birds-eye view of the whole thing. My mom was telling me at breakfast this morning that her dad or uncle had a planter that was being repaired at this building years ago(40's/50's) when a fire broke out in it(and destroyed the planter)....

May 9, 2010, 1:14pm Permalink
Gabor Deutsch

I hope that the bricks will be recycled or salvaged. It would be great if all the people that are this attached to that building could buy a memento to remember it by like they do with other buildings. Maybe Mr. Mancuso would donate some bricks to the city of Batavia to do a piece of walk way or something too. I would only ask if the bricks are free someone let me know because I could use some for my garden border or walkway.

May 9, 2010, 2:13pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Dennis and George are right to ask the question..seems like over sight on the fire departments part...To have a fire at the same place that was put out earlier seems odd..To try and say an arsonist started the first fire and then came back and started another one is hard to believe..It will be interesting to see how much the building was insured for...

May 9, 2010, 6:39pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Mark, why is that odd?

If the arsonist failed the first time, why wouldn't he try again later the same day, especially if the intent was to try and take advantage of the wind.

I think it's also baseless to speculate that this was an insurance fire.

I can tell you based on what I've learned of Mr. Mancuso and his demeanor last night, the last thing he wanted was for these buildings to burn down.

And if he did, I doubt he would have hired a couple of teen-agers to it (if the kids being questioned did start the fire(s)).

Having been in the building after the first fire, having questioned, again, today, Lt. Steinbrenner about how they went about ensuring the first fire was out, I'm quite confident the first fire is not the cause of the second fire.

May 9, 2010, 6:48pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Howard the reason i say it is odd,because who every started the first one would have to be crazy to come back and risk getting caught knowing that the building would be being watched closely after the first fire..You would think that it should have been considered a crime scene from earlier in the day if it was an arson,with the police keeping an extra close eye on it..As far as the insurance goes i was just wondering how much would someone insure and old building like that..Personally i don't see much worth in that building.The front has been falling apart for years.The building that burn down didn't have much use..I thought is was and eyesore..
I just think it was oversight by the fire dept..They did a great job,but maybe thought no fault of there own they missed a few spots ..I would think they would have used and heat camera and looked for hot spots.They thought the had it out last nite and had to go back today to put out a few more smoldering spots..

May 9, 2010, 7:16pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Mark, I don't want to go too much out on a limb because it's always possible that evidence that will prove me wrong will come out, but based on everything I know and observed and have been told, it's hard for me to believe that the second fire was caused by the first.

It will be interesting to see if they're ever able to dig out the rubble to check and find the exact location where this fire started. If it started in or about that same office space, then it makes it more likely that the firefighters missed something. But if it started to the south of that location, as first responders indicated, then that completely rules out missed smoldering fuel.

As for the arsonists returning -- if they are teenagers, you can't explain teenager action by applying adult logic.

May 9, 2010, 7:48pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Mark, as I was just telling Billie -- I can totally see teenagers thinking, "we didn't get caught the first time; we won't get caught the second time."

Remember, teenagers think they know better and they are invincible.

It's also possible these two kids who were questioned weren't in the building and just hanging out. And we may never for sure know what happened.

Also, fwiw, I think they were beautiful old buildings with a ton of potential.

May 9, 2010, 7:53pm Permalink
Bea McManis

Posted by Bob Price on May 9, 2010 - 1:14pm
and a thank you goes out the the resident of 400 Towers who had a birds-eye view of the whole thing.

You are more than welcome, Bob.

May 10, 2010, 8:57am Permalink
dennis wight

I believe the master plan for the Masse project called for that part of the Wiard building to be removed and made shovel ready. It could cost 200k or more to demolish and remove that structure, which would be out of pocket. Now it burns, coincidentally, twice on a very windy day/night and the insurance company will pick up a good portion, if not all, of the demo and removal. Fire starts behind the section of the building that has new windows and roof repairs while the wind fans the flames to the section that is so badly in need of repair/money. An investigation needs to look at all angles, not just the easiest conclusion. 2 fires, same day? Arsonists don't get paid till the structure burns.

May 10, 2010, 7:33pm Permalink

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