Despite firefighters spraying hoses from about 20 yards from the fire, it continued to burn intensely. Heavy smoke combined with strong gusting winds and frigid conditions to hinder firefighting efforts.
Despite floodlights beamed on the fire from the more than a dozen fire trucks and emergency vehicles at the scene, the heavy black smoke sometimes caused the area around the fire to become completely dark for several seconds at a time. The only light was from tiny embers that frequently flew through the air.
Green Circle Growers provides plants to area big box stores and supermarkets, according to its website, which said it has growing "down to a science." The website said the greenhouses are heated with radiant heat that cuts the use of natural gas by 40 percent.
"The heat is produced by a wood boiler fueled by refuse from local tree removal companies," the website said. "Instead of natural gas, they use sawdust, wood chips and even tire chips from tire disposal companies."
The greenhouses are roughly 100 yards from Route 511 which made it harder to get water to fight the fire. Fire tankers poured water into portable ponds that were set up below a small hill.
As firefighters from the Camden and Florence townships, LaGrange and Wakeman fire departments walked up and down the hill, water streamed down a driveway from the hill and formed a pool at the bottom of the hill near the portable ponds. Water from hoses formed small chunks of ice that covered the street.
Excavators from a private contractor were brought in to help contain the fire, according to Florence Township Assistant Fire Chief Jim Carrico.
"They're going to try to cut into the building and cut the fire off," Carrico said.
Firefighting was hampered by wind gusts which were approximately 30 mph, according to Brian Mitchell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland. The 20-degree temperature, which felt like 5 degrees due to the wind chill factor, increased the difficulty of their efforts.
"We were doing good, but now everything's freezing on us," Carrico said around 9:30 p.m. "The valves in the (tanker) trucks are freezing up."
As firefighters trudged up the muddy hill, Carrico directed tanker trucks from different departments to pull up to the portable ponds. Each truck contained 3,000 gallons of water.
As Carrico directed trucks, water poured down the hill and swirled like a whirlpool in a ditch by the portable ponds. Soot from the fire made it pitch black and a Wellington firefighter fell into it before quickly being pulled out by comrades.
Firefighters from Amherst, LaGrange, Oberlin and Wellington also helped fight the blaze. Large clouds of white smoke continued to billow into the sky above firefighters battling the blaze from cherry pickers at 10:20 p.m., five hours after it was called in.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.