Area regroups after recent arson attack
GOWANDA — Over the past year, the village of Gowanda was on a roll. Gateway Park to Zoar Valley opened, which cleared the site from its former landfill and glue factory remains and glistens the Cattaraugus Creek-side with a green plot of land that will only grow.
Gowanda also will host a brand-new facility on South Water Street for the Zoar Valley Recovery and Treatment Center. These positives and more have been blemished and hindered by negative events like Tuesday’s arson, but business owners and officials emphasize they will not let the bad overshadow how much has been going well.After Tuesday’s fire, two businesses had to close shop at their location. However, one of the businesses, Artista Salon, has made quick work of finding a new solution, which looks to be a few doors down at 14 Jamestown St.
“We do not want other businesses to leave this town,” President of the Chamber of Commerce in Gowanda and Gowanda Fire Chief Nick Crassi said. “It’s extremely important that the businesses we have here remain strong and stay here and grow further. I know the chamber pushes that and the fire department does everything it can to protect our residents and will continue to, but this is not good and we definitely want to find out who did this and make an example of them because we can’t have this continue.”
The fire started around 6:30 p.m. at the street-side corner of 28 Jamestown St., which is adjacent to the former Burger King. The blaze traveled up the side wall and into the attic. The water dripped down throughout the building and ultimately, the fire caused the building to be a total loss of $200,000.
Gowanda Police Chief Dennis Feldmann and his crew is on the case. Feldmann, with much support by Mayor David Smith, stressed that Gowanda Police has “a full-court press about this” and that they are still going through several suspects.
Feldmann added more to what had happened in Tuesday’s fire.
“We believe that the gentleman upstairs had a cleaning crew clean his apartment for him and they placed the debris alongside the building,” he said. “And we believe that it was just a random act done by juveniles at this time. What we believe, as we collect evidence towards it, that there weren’t any threats made towards the person that lived upstairs or to the businesses themselves. We believe it was done by opportunity … just to burn up the garbage on the side of the building.”
Residents may have taken note of the few burns that occurred in recent past. Feldmann stated that some buildings in the area are older structures, which could burn easier. But for arson cases, there has been two in the past year.
Joe Vogtli, who co-owns the building with Janet Vogtli, has been a longtime resident, business owner and investor in the area. He has seen suspicious fires before in the area and believes the punishment is what should fret the arsonist.
“It’s hard because over the last few years there’s been a number of arson cases and most have been committed by juveniles,” Joe Vogtli said. “When they see that, places getting torched through no fault of the owner, it makes it kind of hard. Unfortunately, I think it’s not only a problem here, but a problem everywhere.”
Now as the fire soon becomes last week’s news, the Gowanda area can refocus on what is to come of the village.
“I think it’ll be all right. We’ve got the new clinic over here to bring people downtown. This (plot of land) will be filled,” Joe Vogtli said pointing at the burned building then toward the empty storefront. “She’s going to move there from Artista, so we’ll get that back in operation. The only thing we’re going to lose is that storefront there on the end and the apartment upstairs.”