A day after a fire damaged the former Star of the West mill complex in Kent, the block surrounding the mill was still closed and much of the city still smelled of smoke.
Barricades prevented motorists from accessing much of North Water Street, including the nearby Hometown Bank, but onlookers managed to get to the site on foot to see the damage and snap photos.
Scribbles Coffee, across the street from the mill, was closed, but Bent Tree Coffee Roasters, located just outside the barricades, was open for business.
Kent fest postponed:Fire in downtown Kent forces rescheduling of Festival of Lights to Dec. 10
A vehicle, parked in front of the building that burned, was buried under an avalanche of brick.
A Facebook post by the Portage County Incident Management Assistance Team said more than 100 individuals responded to the fire.
The city's downtown Festival of Lights, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed until Dec. 10, the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce announced.
Six ladder units were used to douse the fire, and so much water was used, the city's water supply was stressed. Kent Fire Department Chief Bill Myers asked residents to limit their water use.
A firefighter who answered the Kent Fire Department phone Saturday morning said no one was available for an update because personnel were still at the scene. A local businessman who returned to the scene at 3 a.m. said Myers was still there at the time, directing his crews.
Some businesses near the mill were evacuated Friday morning, including Each + Every, a design and development studio located nearby. One of the company's four listed principals posted on Instagram and Facebook that the studio was being evacuated when the explosion took place.
"I came outside to (a co-worker) who had just parked in the lot behind Town Hall II and we both stood there for only a moment before the front of the mill building blew out," he wrote in the social media posts.
Residents and interested parties from around the area were quick to comment on Kent's loss, including Stow Mayor John Pribonic, who praised firefighters at the scene and the Stow Service Department for delivering fuel to the firetrucks.
The building's former owner, Star of the West Milling Co., commented in a Facebook post.
"Star of the West was saddened to hear about the fire at the Kent, Ohio mill that we previously owned. The mill was decommissioned by Star in 2016 and sold to a development company in 2019," the company wrote.
Cartoonist John "Derf" Backderf, author of "My Friend Dahmer," wrote that the mill, with its towering silos, were a distinctive visual for his book "Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio."
"I can't imagine downtown Kent without those giant white towers," Backderf posted on Facebook. "I'll probably drive down this weekend to take a look at the damage."
Historian Howard Boyle, who serves on the board of the Kent Historical Society and of Hometown Bank, said the structure was the "crib" of the mill, which received grain deliveries by rail. Also part of the block was a former department store, which later became an office for the mill, a four-story structure where the original milling took place, and the iconic white silos most commonly associated with the mill.
"It was the oldest part of the mill, and the least usable for adaptive reuse," he said.
Boyle said the other buildings in the vicinity, including the bank, were free of smoke damage. The bank was evacuated Monday morning, but bankers were given time to shut down computers. The block and businesses on it, including the bank, were expected to reopen by Monday, he said.
The "crib" was built with a "tremendous amount" of solid oak beams, and at one point had chemical tanks that held chemicals used to treat the grain. Those tanks are no longer there, Boyle said.
The building was still used by Star of the West to receive grain deliveries, but has not been used since the mill shut down.
"For what it was used for, it was in very good shape," he said. "But it was still 140 years old, and they were always concerned about the possibility of fire."
The 0.83-acre property, which includes the towering grain silos that help define Kent's skyline, sold to The Tulips Llc. for $405,000 in 2019.
On Friday afternoon, Chief Myers said the fire could continue to smolder for a day or two. Smoke was still seen rising from the building Saturday morning as heavy rain poured down.
Firefighters have been unable to reenter the structure after an explosion Friday morning made the building unstable, Myers said. The firefighters who were inside the building when the explosion happened were able to get out safely.
Myers said the explosion occurred about three minutes after firefighters arrived on scene.
The fire department is contacting a demolition company to help lower burned and unburned materials down enough to complete the building’s extinguishment.
“It is very challenging," Myers said. "We are restricted on our accessibility to the building with the train tracks at the back of the building as well as other buildings to the side.”
Thirty-seven fire departments were called for mutual aid.
Beacon Journal staff writer Tawney Beans contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Firefighters work into second day to quell blaze at historic Kent mill