Channel 27 archives

AS WE TOLD YOU AT THE TOP OF OUR NEWSCAST, THE HISTORIC BALLROOM AT THE LONG-VACANT IDORA PARK, WENT-UP IN FLAMES TODAY. JOE BELL IS THERE RIGHT NOW, TO TELL US ABOUT IT. AS YOU CAN SEE, THE RUBBLE OF THAT HISTORIC STRUCTURE IS STILL SMOLDERING. EIGHT HOURS AGO, THIS PLACE WAS AN INFERNO.SENDING UP A COLUMN OF BLACK SMOKE YOU COULD SEE TEN MILES AWAY. THE 90-YEAR-OLD TIMBERS WERE PRIME FUEL. SINCE THE BUILDING HAS BEEN EMPTY FOR YEARS, YOUNGSTOWN FIREFIGHTERS DID NOT TRY TO ENTER THE STRUCTURE AND SAVE IT. EVEN THOUGH ELECTRICITY AND GAS SERVICE HAVE BEEN CUT OFF, THIS WAS FIRE THEY'D BEEN FEARING FOR A LONG TIME. KNOWING THAT VAGRANTS WERE LIVING IN THERE AND THERE HAVE BEEN KIDS IN THERE BFORE, WE HAVE BEEN DOWN IN HERE BECAUSE WE KNOW WE HAVE WATER PROBLEMS IN THE AREA. SO WE CHECKED IT OUT TO SEE WHAT WE WOULD DO IN CASE OF A FIRE. ARSON INVESTIGATORS ARE OPERATING ON THE ASSUMPTION THIS WAS A DELIBERATE JOB. THEY ARE NOT YET SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT THE METHOD USED TO DO IT. THANKS-- JOE BELL LIVE IN YOUNGSTOWN. IDORAHISTORY Return to index of stories... ASK ANYONE WHO HAS LIVED IN THE VALLEY 20 YEARS OR MORE -- AND THEY'RE SURE TO REMEMBER AT LEAST ONE GOOD TIME AT THE IDORA BALLROOM. TRICIA PERRY TAKES A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF ONE OF THE AMUSEMENT PARK'S OLDEST BUILDINGS. IDORAHISTORY-C Return to index of stories... UNDER THE BILLOWING SMOKE AND TWISTING FLAMES -- A YOUNGSTOWN MEMORY DIES. THE IDORA BALLROOM -- A DRAWING CARD FOR THE AMUSEMENT PARK SINCE 1910 -- BURNED TO THE FOUNDATIONS. IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THE BALLROOM ANYMORE. THE BLAZE BROUGHT OUT THOSE WHO HAD SEEN HAPPIER DAYS HERE -- WHEN BIG BANDS DREW BIGGER CROWDS THAT DANCED THE NIGHT AWAY. SHALE-- WHO WROTE A BOOK ABOUT IDORA-- SAYS THE BALLROOM WITH IT'S 22-THOUSAND SQUARE FOOT DANCE FLOOR WAS A SYMBOL OF THE PARK'S GOLDEN YEARS IN THE 30'S-- AN ORNATE SHOWPIECE AT THE END OF A TROLLEY STOP. AFTER A COASTER FIRE CLOSED THE PARK IN 1984 -- THE BALLROOM CONTINUED TO HOUSE LARGE EVENTS FOR AWHILE -- BUT SINCE THE LATE 80'S IT HAS STOOD NEGLECTED. SOME EXPECTED THIS ENDING. TRICIA PERRY 27 FIRST NEWS. IDORAHISTORY-T Return to index of stories... YOUNGER IDORA FANS MAY REMEMBER THE CAR SHOW, THE HOME AND GARDEN SHOW, AND THE MANY MUSICAL ACTS THAT PLAYED AT THE BALLROOM IN THE 70'S AND 80'S

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THE INTENSITY OF THIS INFERNO SENT UP A COLUMN OF BLACK YOU COULD EASILY SEE FROM HUBBARD. THERE WAS NO WAY YOUNGSTOWN FIREFIGHTERS WERE GOING TO RISK GOING IN TO SAVE A BUILDING THEY KNEW WAS EMPTY. ALL THE UTILITIES WERE SHUT OFF YEARS AGO. THAT LEAVES ONLY THE POSSIBILITY THAT SOMEONE DELIBERATELY SET THE BLAZE. VAGRANTS AND KIDS HAD BEEN BREAKING IN CONSTANTLY. COUPLE THAT WITH THE FACT THAT THE NEAREST FIRE HYDRANT WAS OVER A THOUSAND FEET AWAY.AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT HAD BEEN PLANNING FOR TROUBLE. WE HAVE BEEN DOWN IN HERE BECAUSE WE KNOW WE HAVE WATER PROBLEMS IN THE AREA. SO WE CHECKED IT OUT TO SEE WHAT WE WOULD DO IN CASE OF A FIRE. WE DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA OF ANY PARTICULAR PERSON. WE SECURE THE PARK. THEY FIND A WAY BACK IN. JASON WHITEHEAD'S THE ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGER FOR MT. CALVARY PENTECOSTAL CHURCH, WHICH OWNS THE OLD IDORA PARK PROPERTY. THE CHURCH HAS PLANS TO BUILD A SCHOOL, NURSING FACILITY AND RETREAT HOUSE HERE. CHURCH MEMBERS, PRESERVATIONISTS AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT HAVE BEEN DEBATING WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE BALLROOM FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS. WE HAD NOT DETERMINED WHETHER OR NOT WE WERE GOING TO BRING THE BUILDING DOWN OR WHETHER WE WERE GOING TO USE IT. OF COURSE, ALL THAT'S LEFT NOW IS RUBBLE TO CLEAR. YOU KNEW IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN SOONER OR LATER. TEY SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING TO PUT IT ALL BACK TOGETHER A LONG TIME AGO. IDORABALLROOM-T Return to index of stories... JOE -- WE UNDERSTAND THAT THERE WAS TALK OF ASBESTOS CONTAMINATING THE BUILDING. IS THAT POSING ANY RISK TO PEOPLE OUT THERE NOW? THANKS, JOE. IDORAHISTORY Return to index of stories... TODAY'S FIRE IS THE SAD END TO WHAT MANY VALLEY RESIDENTS REMEMBER AS AN EXCITING AND LIVELY AMUSEMENT PARK. THE PARK OPENED IN MAY OF 1899. IT HAD MANY SUCCESSFUL YEARS UNTIL A FIRE IN 1984 INVOLVING THE WILDCAT COASTER AND THE LOST RIVER SQUASHED HOPES OF A FUTURE. THE PARK CLOSED IN SEPTEMBER OF THAT YEAR. A FIRE IN 1986 FURTHER DAMAGED THE PARK. HISTORIANS SAY THE BALLROOM WAS A SYMBOL OF THE PARK'S BEST YEARS. LIVEINTERVIEW Return to index of stories... IT'S A SAD DAY FOR THOSE WHO'VE TRIED TO RESURRECT IDORA OVER THE YEARS. AMONG THEM, VALLEY ARTIST BOB BARKO WHO JOINS US LIVE FROM THE PARK. BOB, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING AS YOU SEE THAT OLD BALLROOM DESTROYED BY FIRE? YOU'VE SPENT MANY HOURS DOCUMENTING PIECES OF THE PARK IN YOUR ARTWORK. WHAT'S YOUR FONDEST MEMORY OF THAT OLD BALLROOM? WHAT'S YOUR NEXT STEP--AS FAR AS ANY EFFORT TO SAVE THE PARK? BOB BARKO -- THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TONITE. TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT IDORA PARK CLICK ON WKBN-DOT-COM.

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AT THIS HOUR, THE RUBBLE OF THE HISTORIC IDORA PARK BALLROOM IS STILL SMOLDERING. SHORTLY BEFORE TEN O'CLOCK THIS MORNING, FLAMES BROKE OUT IN THE BASEMENT, AND QUICKLY SENT UP A COLUMN OF BLACK SMOKE. THE 90-YEAR-OLD TIMBERS WERE PRIME FUEL. SINCE THE BUILDING HAS BEEN EMPTY FOR YEARS, YOUNGSTOWN FIREFIGHTERS DID NOT TRY TO ENTER THE STRUCTURE AND SAVE IT. ELECTRICITY AND GAS SERVICE HAVE BEEN CUT OFF FOR YEARS. ARSON INVESTIGATORS ARE OPERATING ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT SOMEONE INTENTIONALLY SET THE BLAZE. IT WAS INEVITABLE. WE KNOW WITH VAGRANTS COMING IN AND OUT OF THE BUILDING, WE'VE HAD TROUBLE WITH THAT IN THE PAST, KNOWING THAT VAGRANTS WERE LIVING IN THERE. AND THERE HAVE BEEN KIDS IN THERE BEFORE. CLEANUP AFTER THE FIRE POSES ANOTHER PROBLEM. THE BUILDING WAS CONTAMINATED WITH ASBESTOS, AND WORKERS WILL HAVE TO TREAT THE RUBBLE AS HAZARDOUS MATERIAL. IDORA HISTORY Return to index of stories... TODAY'S FIRE IS THE SAD END TO WHAT MANY VALLEY RESIDENTS REMEMBER AS AN EXCITING AND LIVELY AMUSEMENT PARK. THE PARK OPENED IN MAY OF 1899. IT HAD MANY SUCCESSFUL FOR YEARS UNTIL A FIRE IN 1984 INVOLVING THE WILDCAT COASTER AND THE LOST RIVER SQUASHED HOPES OF A FUTURE. THE PARK CLOSED IN SEPTEMBER OF THAT YEAR. ANOTHER FIRE IN 1986 FURTHER DAMAGED THE PARK. HISTORIANS SAY THE BALLROOM WAS A SYMBOL OF THE PARK'S BEST YEARS. BARKO Return to index of stories... TODAY'S FIRE IS PARTICULARLY TOUGH TO TAKE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE WORKED OVER THE YEAR'S TO RESURRECT THE PARK. VALLEY ARTIST, BOB BARKO IS AMONG THEM -- HE SAYS NOW IT'S EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TO ACCELERATE THE PROCESS OF SAVING WHAT'S LEFT OF THE PARK. " THERE HAVE BEEN THREE FIRES. OLDEST COASTER IN AMERICA."

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STILL NO OFFICIAL CAUSE OF THE FIRE YESTERDAY THAT DESTROYED THE HISTORIC IDORA PARK BALLROOM. THE FLAMES BROKE-OUT IN THE BASEMENT, AND QUICKLY SENT-UP A COLUMN OF BLACK SMOKE THAT COULD BE SEEN 10 MILES AWAY. ARSON INVESTIGATORS ARE OPERATING ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT SOMEONE INTENTIONALLY SET THE BLAZE.

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GOOD EVENING. FIRST AT FIVE TONIGHT -- YESTERDAY, IT WAS A ROARING INFERNO. TODAY, AN EXPENSIVE, DANGEROUS MESS. THAT'S WHAT'S LEFT OF THE OLD IDORA PARK BALLROOM. THE HISTORIC BUILDING WENT UP IN FLAMES YESTERDAY. THE FIRE IS FINALLY OUT, BUT NOW COMES THE DIFFICULT TASK OF CLEANING UP. THE STRUCTURE WAS FILLED WITH ASBESTOS. THAT MEANS DEMOLITION CREWS HAVE TAKEN SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS TO SHIP THE DEBRIS TO A LANDFILL LICENSED TO ACCEPT THIS TYPE OF HAZARDOUS WASTE. PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS SAY THE SITE POSES NO DANGER TO THE NEIGHBORS AT LEAST FOR THE MOMENT. THE OWNER OF THE OLD AMUSEMENT PARK, MOUNT CALVARY PENTECOSTAL CHURCH, WILL HAVE TO BEAR THE COST OF THE CLEANUP. ARSON INVESTIGATORS ARE STILL TRYING TO FIND THE CAUSE OF YESTERDAY'S BLAZE. THEY NOW ESTIMATE THE TOTAL DAMAGE AT HALF-A-MILLION DOLLARS.

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A DANGEROUS AND EXPENSIVE MESS HAS BEEN LEFT OF THE IDORA PARK BALLROOM. IT WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE YESTERDAY. TODAY: YOUNGSTOWN ARSON INVESTIGATORS SAY THE CAUSE OF THE FIRE WILL REMAIN UNDETERMINED. THAT'S BECAUSE OF THE EXTENSIVE DAMAGE. IN THE MEANTIME: THE STRUCTURE IS NOW CONSIDERED DANGEROUS -- BECAUSE IT WAS FILLED WITH ASBESTOS. BEFORE THE FIRE, IT WAS ESTIMATED THE OWNERS WOULD HAVE TO SPEND 125-THOUSAND DOLLARS TO REMOVE THE CONTAMINATION. THAT PRICE IS BOUND TO RISE NOW. THE OWNER OF THE OLD AMUSEMENT PARK, MOUNT CALVARY PENTECOSTAL CHURCH, WILL HAVE TO BEAR THE COST OF THE CLEANUP. TOTAL DAMAGE TO THE BALLROOM IS SAID TO BE HALF-A-MILLION DOLLARS.

channel 33

Ballroom Fire Causes Health Hazard Youngstown, Oh Jeff Raker Asbestos Problem in Cleanup According to the Youngstown Health District... a sample taken from the ballroom ceiling in 1997 showed there was asbestos in the building. Although the ballroom is now just a shell, the asbestos is in the debris. The health district will be involved in the cleanup to make sure it is handled correctly. The cleanup is the responsibility of the park owners, Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church in Youngstown. The health district will make sure Mt. Calvary moves forward on the cleanup soon. The Ballroom's Final Waltz The Idora Park Ballroom burned to the ground on Monday morning. Flames and thick smoke filed the sky around ten o'clock. Firefighters battled the blaze for two hours before they were able to get control. The Ballroom was built in 1910 and was considered an architectural marvel designed after the Coney Island Ballroom. Twin spires near the main entrance highlighted the building. Inside, the dome shaped building was a large dance floor where both young and old were entertained by the likes of the Sunnybrook Orchestra. But the young had to beware, no cheek to cheek dancing was allowed in the early days. All the big bands played Idora, from Guy Lombardo to Benny Goodman. In 1955, the ballroom was renovated to give it a more contemporary look. The dome ceiling was replaced by a much softer look. Richard Scarsella of the Idora Park Institute says..."It had a very unique suspended art deco cloud ceiling that literally lit up like the rainbow and it was very, very romantic." But even after renovation the ballroom floor continued to be its best feature. It was Ten Thousand square feet of suspended solid wood. Larry Walk considered the ballroom the perfect place for his Penn Ohio Polka Festivals..."Idora was suspended on timber, which whenever the folks danced there was some give to it. So they would come out for a 12 hour festival and dance all day long and go home happy and not tired." In summer, the ballroom was an airy place, large windows on one side and big doors on the other. Even after the park closed the ballroom continued to hold dances. Though by 1985 even Larry Walk had to relocate his polka festival. The final dance was held on Monday, firefighters and flames took the last turn on the dance floor, the last waltz for the Idora Park Ballroom. Connie Colella and Stan Boney contributed to these stories.

Vindicator

Landmark was park's heart, soul, local author says -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dancers, diners, politicians and the press all went to the Idora Park ballroom. By D.A. WILKINSON VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER YOUNGSTOWN -- The Idora Park ballroom, a symbol of the city's happier times, is gone. "Idora [ballroom] was mostly the thing for which Youngstown is most known," said former owner Charles "Mickey" Rindin of Youngstown. "There's nothing that can replace it." A fire Monday morning deemed suspicious by authorities reduced the ballroom to ash in a matter of minutes. Only two worn concession stands, the Jack Rabbit roller coaster and a portion of the Wildcat roller coaster remain at the former amusement park, Rindin said. Another former owner, Leonard Cavalier of Youngstown, said that as he travels the country, people remember the ballroom or the rides. "It has a lot of memories for a lot of people," Cavalier said. A big part of park: Rick Shale of Boardman, co-author of "Idora Park: The Last Ride of Summer," said that while other symbols of Youngstown remain, such as the Butler Institute of American Art, the ballroom could claim to be Idora Park's heart and soul because so many events at the rest of the park also involved the ballroom. Trolley lines that were extended after the park opened dropped off visitors right in front of the ballroom, he added. Idora Park closed in 1985. "All we have left are happy memories," Shale said. Many of those involved romance. Robert Pugh of Boardman came to watch the fire with his wife, Virginia. They had visited the ballroom several times while they were dating. "It's just a shame," Robert Pugh said. Rindin estimated the dance floor could hold as many as 2,500 dancers, and just as many people for dinner. Rindin said he knew of no place in the area now that could seat that many at one time. Shale said it was one of the largest dance floors between New York and Chicago. Preserved in book: Much of that history has been preserved in Shale's book, while some park materials were donated by Cavalier to The Arms Museum of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. The ballroom was built in 1910, although dances at the park went back to 1899, Shale said. In recent years, however, the ballroom was becoming more dilapidated, although Shale said it was the only thing of any value left at the park. Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr. could not put a value on the amount of damage. The ballroom had a market value of $119,000, say records at the Mahoning County Auditor's Office. Records also show the 26 acres comprising the former park have a market value of $286,700. The land is valued at $155,100, and all the property is valued at $131,600. The city has cited the owner, Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church in Youngstown, in the past for failing to secure the ballroom, but a church representative had said people kept breaking in. Vagrants or vandals kept setting fires in and around the ballroom. Prediction came true: O'Neill said of the ballroom last year, "Sooner or later, the worst case is going to come of that. It really scares you. It would go up like a matchbox." It did. The fire department received the call at 9:51 a.m. Monday. The fire department responded with all but one of its trucks. By 10:15, the center of the ballroom was engulfed and by 10:35 a.m., the building was all but gone. Firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to the nearby Jack Rabbit. Alvin Ware, a city arson investigator, said he may know the cause by today. Ware and O'Neill said the fire was suspicious, but neither saw any obvious sign of arson. Richard Scarsella, director of the Idora Park Institute, was at the scene and said, "This is literally history going up in flames before our eyes." Didn't come to fruition: Various efforts to preserve the park and its structures never came together. Rindin said the ballroom needed work but could have been restored. Efforts to sell the Jack Rabbit and the remaining portion of the Wildcat to Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania fell through in 2000. Jason Whitehead, corporate administrative manager for Mount Calvary, said no one else has made an offer for the rides. Mount Calvary has long planned to build the City of God spiritual center at the former park. Whitehead said the concept was still active but he was unaware of any activity. The church's Bishop Norman L. Wagner was out of town and unavailable to comment on the church's plans, said Whitehead, who added the bishop was "very saddened" by the fire. The church is $6,777 behind in its real-estate taxes on the park. It wasn't clear if the church was making payments. Current taxes of $2,824 are due Friday.

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33

Ballroom Fire Causes Health Hazard Youngstown, Oh Jeff Raker Asbestos Problem in Cleanup According to the Youngstown Health District... a sample taken from the ballroom ceiling in 1997 showed there was asbestos in the building. Although the ballroom is now just a shell, the asbestos is in the debris. The health district will be involved in the cleanup to make sure it is handled correctly. The cleanup is the responsibility of the park owners, Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church in Youngstown. The health district will make sure Mt. Calvary moves forward on the cleanup soon. The Ballroom's Final Waltz The Idora Park Ballroom burned to the ground on Monday morning. Flames and thick smoke filed the sky around ten o'clock. Firefighters battled the blaze for two hours before they were able to get control. The Ballroom was built in 1910 and was considered an architectural marvel designed after the Coney Island Ballroom. Twin spires near the main entrance highlighted the building. Inside, the dome shaped building was a large dance floor where both young and old were entertained by the likes of the Sunnybrook Orchestra. But the young had to beware, no cheek to cheek dancing was allowed in the early days. All the big bands played Idora, from Guy Lombardo to Benny Goodman. In 1955, the ballroom was renovated to give it a more contemporary look. The dome ceiling was replaced by a much softer look. Richard Scarsella of the Idora Park Institute says..."It had a very unique suspended art deco cloud ceiling that literally lit up like the rainbow and it was very, very romantic." But even after renovation the ballroom floor continued to be its best feature. It was Ten Thousand square feet of suspended solid wood. Larry Walk considered the ballroom the perfect place for his Penn Ohio Polka Festivals..."Idora was suspended on timber, which whenever the folks danced there was some give to it. So they would come out for a 12 hour festival and dance all day long and go home happy and not tired." In summer, the ballroom was an airy place, large windows on one side and big doors on the other. Even after the park closed the ballroom continued to hold dances. Though by 1985 even Larry Walk had to relocate his polka festival. The final dance was held on Monday, firefighters and flames took the last turn on the dance floor, the last waltz for the Idora Park Ballroom. Connie Colella and Stan Boney contributed to these stories.

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33

Fire at Idora Park Youngstown, OH Connie Colella The old Idora Park is closed to the hearts of thousands of people in the valley and that’s why today it was heartbreaking for people to watch the ballroom burn to the ground. You could hear the cracking of wood as flames roared through the ballroom. It was a losing battle for firefighters who tried to save the historic landmark. The smoke billowing into the sky attracted onlookers from miles away many took pictures as they watched their memories their memories burn with the ballroom. Richard Conrad of Youngstown says…"first thing that came through my mind was all the rocking rides...the spring things...I seen BB King in there. I had a lot of memories there from either dancing or roller-skating…another part of Youngstown is dead." The ballroom was built in 1910 a decade after the park came to life. But the music was silenced and the rides were stopped in their tracks when Idora Park closed at the end of the 1984 season. Ironically because of a fire to the Wildcat Roller coaster. The future of the Ballroom had been unknown; support to preserve it was lacking. Richard Scarsella of the Idora Park Institute told News Channel 33…"Idora really was the heart of our valley... if steel was the soul and downtown was the brains...Idora touched everybody." The fencing surrounding the park has not been the best. In fact the park owners have been cited several times for not securing this place and there have been numerous reports of people trespass in here. Reverend Jason Whitehead of Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church the owners of the Park tells News Channel 33 "unfortunately we secure it and people break in...so we do the best we can." Chief John O’Neil of the Youngstown Fire Department…"We've had a lot of trouble over the last few years with vagrants being in there and kids roller skating and so on inside the building. It was never really secured...and actually over the last few years we've prepared for this because we knew it was inevitable." The investigation continues and investigators are handling as a suspicious fire

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Vindicator

Asbestos poses risk; Idora owner liable Thu, Mar 8, 2001 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The asbestos poses no health hazard as long as it stays wet, an asbestos coordinator said. By D.A. WILKINSON and PETER H. MILLIKEN VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS YOUNGSTOWN -- Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church is responsible for the costly cleanup of asbestos at the former Idora Park ballroom, city officials said. Mike Damiano, the city's deputy director of demolition and housing, and Larry Himes, asbestos coordinator for the Mahoning-Trumbull Air Pollution Control Agency, said they will send letters to the church detailing what must be done. Damiano said he was going to press for quick removal of the debris left by Monday's fire, which destroyed the ballroom, built in 1910. Mount Calvary acquired the park in 1985. "I'm not going to let this go on for any length of time," he said. The church will have until April 1 to begin cleanup efforts, Damiano said. Damiano said that if the church can't afford the cleanup, it would take his department's entire annual budget to do it. Mount Calvary spokesmen could not be reached to comment. The church is $6,777 behind in its real-estate taxes on the park. It wasn't clear if the church was making payments. Current taxes of $2,824 are due Friday Safe removal: Himes will notify the church about the steps that must be taken to safely remove the debris. His agency oversees enforcement of U.S. and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency air pollution rules. The Youngstown landmark contained 24,000 square feet of asbestos ceiling material, which provided good acoustics for the bands that performed there. The asbestos is now in the debris. There's no health threat as long as the material stays wet. "If that [material] sits and dries out, there is potential of fiber release," said Himes. "It can sit for a certain amount of time. But if it dries out, then it will really be a problem," Damiano added. No more help: Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr. said he is unwilling to have the fire department continue to hose down the rubble to keep it wet. "I think the owner should be responsible for that. We've asked them to be responsible for that building all along. Our equipment is for emergencies -- not for that sort of operation," he said. The church will have to hire a contractor certified in asbestos abatement and removal to take away the debris, which will have to be kept wet during removal, Himes said. All the material must be taken in covered or enclosed trucks to a landfill that can accept asbestos. A containment area also must be set up to wash asbestos from the steel in the structure before it is sold for scrap. The church also will be told to immediately put a fence around the debris, Damiano said. Vagrants inside: Vagrants had recently been living in the basement of the ballroom, which is where the fire started, said Alvin Ware, the city fire department's arson investigator. In the past, there was evidence of fires set inside and outside the building, and city officials had feared exactly what has happened. To avoid the problem, the city recently sought quotes on removing the asbestos while the ballroom was standing. Prices ranged then from $110,000 to $150,000, but they now now could run between $200,000 and $300,000, Damiano said. That could be more than the value of the entire park. Mahoning County Auditor's Office records show the 26 acres of the former Idora Park, the ballroom, and the other properties had a market value of $286,700. The ballroom itself was valued at $119,000. The fire department indicated the loss of the building was $500,000 -- a figure O'Neill said was based upon "a mix of its actual value and historical value." Ware said the church has not responded to calls on whether the property was insured. Councilman reacts: Councilman Michael Rapovy, D-5th, told his colleagues Wednesday that it's imperative for the church to launch "an immediate cleanup" of the site and arrange for immediate demolition of the remnants of the Wildcat roller coaster and two adjacent structures. "If that Wildcat were to catch fire right now, with the woods right next door to it in Mill Creek Park, we'll have a loss that we've never seen before in Youngstown," said Rapovy, whose ward includes Idora Park. Himes said there were no state or federal cleanup funds readily available. In some cases, a city has seized property in return for undertaking cleanups, Himes said. Cause undetermined: Ware said that because of the extensive damage, the cause of the blaze will remain undetermined "It's still open, suspicious, and under investigation. We're definitely looking for any witnesses we can find, anyone that saw anything suspicious," O'Neill said. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the arson bureau at (330) 782-0055.

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