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Howard B. Owens's blog

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Margarita's, Main St., Alex's and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, NY: To me, Delavan's is one of those restaurants where you wantto eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, 15 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: When you're looking for an authentic Mexican meal, Margarita's is the place to go. The food and atmosphere are perfect and the service is always outstanding. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Main St. Pizza Company, 206 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Pizza, wings, subs and even hamburgers and hot dogs, Main St. Pizza makes everything deliciously. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Alex's Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY: People come from all over the region for a fine dining experience at Alex's. It's best known for its ribs, of course, but Alex's seafood is also a favorite of the restaurant's diners. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Settler's Restaurant, 353 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Settler's has a 25-year history of serving great, affordable breakfasts, lunches and dinners to Batavians. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Give yourself the gift of flowers, or give to a friend. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. "If it happens in sports, it happens at Brown's." We have a $20 gift card for $10.

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 7:10 pm

More reader photos: Wiard Plow fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, photos, Wiard Plow

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Reader Carl Szalbak submitted these photos from last night's Wiard Plow factory fire.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Several homes in Genesee County still without power

post by Howard B. Owens in National Grid, weather

More than 20 hours after a major wind storm blew through Genesee County, power is still out at 18 locations, the largest effecting 166 National Grid customers in Bethany, according to the utility's website.

The other 17 or so outage spots effect fewer than five customers each, according to the site.

In each case, National Grid estimates that power will be returned to these locations by 11 p.m.

There are two remaining outage spots in the City of Batavia and two in the Village of Le Roy. In all four cases, fewer than five customers are without power.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Batavia Fire back on scene at Wiard to douse hot spot

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow

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Batavia Fire's Engine 12 was back on scene this afternoon after smoke started to rise from the rubble near the still intact part of the structure. While smoldering wood has been allowed burn well away from the remaining structure, firefighters were concerned this was a little too close. 

Curious area residents continue to drive by the Swan Street scene on a regular basis.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Area residents coming out to see ruins of Wiard Plow factory

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow

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As a few last whiffs of smoke drifted from debris of the old Wiard Plow factory in Batavia late this morning, streams of area residents drove by the Swan Street location to see for themselves the destruction from Saturday's massive fire.

What they saw was more than the rubble of bricks, charred beams and twisted metal. They also saw the remains of Batavia's once thriving industrial history.

Firefighters were on scene as late as 10:30 a.m. as investigators tried picking through the debris to find the factory floor, in hopes of confirming the fire's origin and possible cause.

Lt. James Steinbrenner said they did get to a portion of the floor, but not the area they want to investigate.  Steinbrenner said the location investigators would like to examine is under much heavier rubble.  He said it will take heavy equipment to remove and it's unclear yet who will pay for that work.

Arson is still suspected, but police detectives have yet to announce any findings.

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More pictures after the jump:

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Engine overheats, causes structure fire in Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire

A structure fire in Elba on Saturday caused an estimated $100,000 damage after a diesel engine connected to a generator apparently overheated, setting off the blaze.

A shed at 5327 Watson Road was destroyed.

The fire damaged the motor, generator, wiring and controls.

Elba Fire and Deputy Jason Saile investigated the incident.

(initial report)

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:05 am

Old factory of one of Batavia's most historic businesses partially destroyed in fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Tom Mancuso, Wiard Plow

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There was nothing Tom Mancuso could do but watch.

Mancuso, donning a New York Yankees ball cap, and wearing a gaunt, dour expression in the unseasonably cold night, stood for hours just watching as firefighters tried to beat back the hungry red and blue flames devouring his building, the old Wiard Plow factory that his firm acquired in the 1980s.

Through the battle, Mancuso rarely turned away. He just watched.

wiardfire20_mancuso1.jpg"You can always build another 100,000-square-foot building," Mancuso said at one point. "You can never replace a 100-year-old building."

An Alarm of Fire
Just before sunset Saturday, Genesee County Dispatch started to get calls of a fire at 33 Swan St. -- the same location where a smaller fire had been extinguished by the Batavia Fire Department earlier Saturday.

On a day when the dispatch center dealt with hundreds and hundreds of calls, the switch board lighting up just fit the pattern.

But this time, this was no "possible" structure fire. Witnesses -- and there were several -- reported seeing heavy smoke.

By the time the Batavia Fire Department was on scene, flames were already showing.

The call quickly went out for mutual-aid departments to respond -- from Le Roy, Stafford, Town of Batavia and several others.

By 8:15 p.m., big balls of flame were shooting from the back of the historic structure.

Among the witnesses to the initial smoke was a reader of The Batavian, who told us he saw two youths running from the building. He said that later those same two youngsters were being questioned by police.

A little after 11 p.m., The Batavian confirmed Batavia Police detectives Todd Crossett and Kevin Czora were at the police station talking with two juveniles. Their parents had also been called to the station.

Earlier in the day, the Batavia Fire Department responded to a report of smoke coming from the rear side of the same Wiard Plow building.

wiardfire16.jpgTwo youths reported the fire, saying they were walking in the area when they spotted the smoke. Lt. James Steinbrenner said Batavia Police questioned the youths who reported the fire and determined they were in fact just witnesses and not involved in the possible arson.

The fire, according to Steinbrenner, appeared deliberately set. There were papers spread around the floor of an abandoned office space that had been ignited. The arrangement of the paper suggested it was sometimes used as bedding.

An electrical cause could be ruled out because the building had no utilities service.

People could gain access to the space where the fire was found through a collapsed wall in an inner courtyard-like area. There was evidence that somebody had used a pallet to construct a makeshift ladder to gain easy access from the courtyard down into the office area.

Four burned birthday candles sat on a table in a room adjacent to the office were the earlier fire was discovered.

That fire was completely extinguished by BFD before it had a chance to spread beyond the office.

This evening's fire, according to Steinbrenner, may have started several yards to the south of the earlier fire, but within the same group of rooms in the building.

Fire Protection
Mancuso was clearly concerned about access to his building. He said work crews just within the past couple of weeks had welded shut doors that vandals had been using to gain access by breaking locks. There was also a 10-foot-high chain-link fence that was supposed to prevent people from entering the courtyard area.

"It was secured from the casual person entering," Mancuso said.

Several fire companies from Genesee County responded to the blaze, including Le Roy, which over the previous six or seven hours had responded to 15 calls in its own district -- mostly trees and power lines down.

Batavia's interim fire chief, Craig Williams, said the first order of business was firefighter safety.

"It’s a vacant building, so our first priority is making sure our guys stay safe, so we weren’t going to enter the building," Williams said.

Firefighters formed a perimeter around the building, striking it with several streams of water -- including three aerial (or ladder) trucks.

One Batavia firefighter said Le Roy's ladder truck crew deserved special credit for attacking the fire from the front of the building and keeping the flames from spreading beyond the firewall.

“There were breeches in the firewall, because of construction and renovations over the years, but we dumped a lot of water on it," Williams said. "Between the firewall and our efforts it looks like we pretty much got it stopped at the firewall.”

All evening, temperatures were at or below freezing, and snow flurries occasionally blew through the scene.

Firefighters were universally thankful for the cold and damp weather. With the high winds of Saturday evening, the fire could have quickly and easily spread if not for the recent rains. The entire Harvester complex could have been lost. Winds of 30 to 40 mph were carrying embers directly over the old factory buildings.

Town of Batavia Fire was assigned early in the incident, Williams said, to watch over the Harvester buildings.

Shortly before 11 p.m., heavy-duty wrecking equipment was brought in to start knocking down bricks and mortar that were first set in the 1870s.

By knocking down the ancient walls, the remains of the fire could be more quickly extinguished.

By about 1 a.m., Sunday, most of the fire units who had responded were back in service.

Updated at 11:30 a.m., Sunday, to include information about weather conditions and potential damage to the Harvester complex.

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Previous coverage:

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 2:20 am

Photos: Old Wiard Plow factory fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow

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Here are 29 photos from the scene of tonight's Wiard Plow factory fire.

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More pictures after the jump:

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 12:19 am

Reader Photos: Wiard factory fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Swan Street, Wiard Plow

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More pictures after the jump:

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Juveniles being questioned in connection with Wiard factory fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Wiard Plow

Two juvenile subjects are currently being questioned at Police Headquarters by Batavia Police detectives Kevin Czora and Todd Crossett.

Their parents have been called to the station.

A witness earlier informed The Batavian that he saw two youths running from the scene, and later saw those two same individuals being questioned by police.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Historic Wiard Plow Co. destroyed by fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow Co.

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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.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Freeze watch in effect

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Bad news for farmers and gardeners, a freeze watch is effect.

Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.

Currently, it's snowing.

The National Weather Service warns that this freeze could kill crops and sensitive vegetation.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Tree that fell into house on Manhattan Ave. nearly removed

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Manhattan Avenue

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The report of this tree falling into a house at 2 Manhatten Ave., Batavia, came in around 5:30 p.m.

The initial report said the residents were trapped in the house, but they managed to get out before city firefighters arrived.

This is the scene at 6:51 p.m.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Possible barn fire reported in Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire

A possible barn fire has been reported at 5327 Watson Road, Elba.

A generator that started smoking may be the cause of the fire.

An Elba chief on scene reports smoke showing.

A plumber from Oakfield is being sent to the Elba Fire Hall. Byron asked to stand by in its hall.


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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Photos: Wind damage in Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, weather

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A tree fell into a home on Kibbe Avenue. Witnesses said a limb pierced straight through the roof into the closet of a bedroom. One person was home, but nobody was hurt.

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A tree down and blocking Jackson Street near Wood Street.

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A man walking down Ellicott Street, trying to keep control of his umbrella in the wind.

More pictures after the jump:

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Swan Street fire caught early, before any real damage done

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire

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A pair of teenagers walking behind the Wiard Plow Co. building on Swan Street spotted smoke coming from a window in the back of the old factory building, so they went to a nearby business and called 9-1-1.

When city firefighters arrived, there was just a little smoke showing and after they made their way into the building, they found smoldering office papers. They were files left behind from a previous business that had been set on fire, according to Lt. James Steinbrenner.

While the fire appears to be intentional, or at least set by the action of some person, there was no accelerant, which would be used in a typical arson.

The fire may have just be a result of people who were hanging out in the building and lighting matches. Four partially burned birthday candles were found in a room adjoining the interior office where the fire was found. The fire did not extend beyond that office.

The burning paper was extinguished quickly by the City of Batavia Fire Department.

The way the paper was spread on the floor, it's possible somebody has been using it as bedding.

Access to the building is wide open through a back wall that is completely collapsed.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm

National Grid bringing in crews from Syracuse

post by Howard B. Owens in national, weather

Genesee dispatch just informed incident commanders that National Grid is sending in crews from Syracuse to help with power-line issues.

No ETA. Also, a tree fell on a house at 2 Manhattan Ave. and the initial report was people were trapped in the house. An update says everybody is out of the house. There's also apparently an incident, possibly a tree into a house, on Ellsworth Avenue.

UPDATE 5:36 p.m.: Colby Road at Route 33 is being closed.

UPDATE 5:41 p.m.: Trees and wires down on Roanoke Road, East Bethany.

UPDATE 5:42 p.m.: Wires down at Rochester and Clinton streets in Bergen. There's also a report of a tree down, blocking, on Circular Hill Road.

UPDATE 5:53 p.m.: A wire is reported down on Route 98, south of Edgerton Road. Elba Fire is responding. The Circular HIll Road tree has been cleared.

UPDATE 6:19 p.m. Tree down, completely blocking at 52 North Lyon.

UPDATE 6:33 p.m.: Another tree is down on Gilbert Street, Le Roy, taking wires down and completely blocking.

UPDATE 6:36 p.m.: Report of a tree down blocking Old Creek Road near Cookson Road.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm

More trees down in Batavia, Elba and Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, elba

Tree branches are down in the area of 166 Summit St., completely blocking it.

At 9 Holland Ave., a tree is down and electrical wires are arcing.

Also, trees down blocking Macomber Road in Oakfield and a street in Bergen.

UPDATE 4:22 p.m.: A line is down and arcing on Route 77. Also, Batavia Fire is being dispatched to 71 S. Main St. for a tree limb on fire. A Le Roy Fire chief reports a limb down on Myrtle Street.

UPDATE 4:28 p.m.: In Le Roy, there are at least two limbs down on Myrtle, with one causing damage to a vehicle, plus one on Glibert Street. Le Roy is setting up a command post at the Fire Hall and requesting all available manpower.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: Fire Dispatch just notifed all fire personnel to go to various operational channels and keep radio transmissions to a minimum: "We have several emergencies to get out."

Update 4:35 p.m.: There is some sort of fire on West Bergen Road. Wires are down on Elm Street in Le Roy, also in Le Roy several tree branches and wires are down and arcing on Lake Street. There is also an incident on Washington Avenue in Batavia that has the street shut down.

UPDATE 4:38 p.m.: A tree has fallen on a house on Kibbe Avenue.

UPDATE 4:40 p.m.: There's a chain reaction of poles down and wires popping on Clipknock Road. There's also another pole down in Le Roy, but we didn't catch the location. Also several poles and wires down on Bethany Center Road.

UPDATE 4:43 p.m.: Somebody just said, "We've lost all power in the village." Not sure which village.

UPDATE 5:09 p.m.: National Grid is on scene on Erie Street in Le Roy for lines down.  Also on Oatka, a large tree is leaning on wires. Wires are intact. In Batavia, Jackson Street is blocked at Wood Street. Darien is being asked to check 9295 Colby Road for unknown wires down.

UPDATE: A tree has fallen into power lines on Vine Street.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Tree branch smoldering on Warner Road, Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in Darien, fire

A tree branch has blown into electrical lines in the area of 11095 Warner Road.

The branch is smoldering. Darien Fire has been dispatched.


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