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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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No cause found for 2022 Star of the West Mill fire

Matt Brown
Firefighters rise into the blaze in downtown Kent.

One year later, no cause has been determined for the fire that consumed the Star of the West Mill in downtown Kent on Dec. 2, 2022. 

The fire and later explosion destroyed multiple buildings of the city’s historical landmark on 162 N. Water St. The extent of the damage resulted in the “Fire Marshal closing its investigation,” said Bridget Susel, community development director for the city of Kent, in an email.

The State Fire Marshal and the city’s fire investigation found no definitive source of the fire, so the investigation for the cause of the fire was closed as an undetermined case, according to Kent City Manager Dave Ruller.

The Star of the West Mill still retains marks of the fire that struck it as of Nov. 21, 2023. Scorch marks line the rear side of the brick building, and the fire escape still remains toppled atop the exposed grain silos. (Matthew Brown)

The fire’s damage 

The mill is permanently closed but is still standing after a “significant” fire with “widespread” damage, according to interim Kent Fire Chief James Samels. 

The fire, which spread heavy black smoke throughout the air, started around 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2022, according to KentWired reporting. An explosion in the mill created a hole in the building’s brick wall facing North Water Street. 

Brandon Klein, a public information officer at the Ohio Department of Commerce, said there is a “lack of available information” and “not much to work on at this point.” 

The fire was in the rear portion of the mill, damaging all four floors leading to its collapse, according to the State Fire Marshal’s investigative team.

“The building has not been officially condemned by the building official by no means,” said Lieutenant Jeff Tyler of the City of Kent Fire Department, one of the fire investigators who worked with the Ohio State Fire Marshal on the case. “The damaged part of it has been fixed, but it is not roped off or secured off as being an unstable building.”

The floors, some of the roofing and beams and the grain bins on the backside of the building are made of wood, which is a combustible material. Ruller said there is no data to suggest what caused it or where it started in the building.

The mill had been vacant at the time of the fire, but the length of vacancy before the fire is unknown, according to the State Fire Marshal’s investigative team.

Water sprays the flames on the side of the mill on Dec. 2, 2022. (Anthony Scilla)

Firefighters on scene did not overlook the years of active mill operation in the building. Cracks in the floor may have been filled with remnants of a type of leftover grain or flour which could have contributed to the volatility of the fire, according to Samels.

“Flour and grain in the right concentration can be combustible,” Samels said. “That can be a fuel itself.”

Other items, including machines, were inside the building at the time of the fire, according to the State Fire Marshal’s investigative team.

No one was hurt at the time of the fire explosion. Four firefighters were inside of the mill at the time of the explosion, Kent Fire Chief Bill Myers said in a KentWired article after the incident.

The owner of the building, Badreeyeh Al Hasawi, hired a structural engineer after the fire and the remaining structures can be reused with more rehabilitation, according to Ruller.

“It’s kind of remarkable the amount of property that wasn’t damaged in light of how hot that fire was,” Ruller said.

He said there was a temporary dislocation of business while the street was closed at the time of the fire, but the property owner expedited some of the rehabilitation work to get the street back open.

The mill’s future and importance

Al Hasawi and her husband Manouchehr Salehi represent The Tulips LLC and bought the mill complex property in 2019 for $405,000, according to the Portage County Auditor’s website.

“The former Star of the West Mill site is privately owned, and the property owner has told the city that eventually the plan is to renovate and repurpose the property, but no timeline or specific use was provided,” Susel said in an email.

Damage sustained after the Star of the West Mill’s fire remains evident as of Nov. 20, 2023. Plants have begun to take root in the exposed interior of the portion of the building lost due to the fire. (Matthew Brown)

The mill, located in the heart of downtown Kent as a recognizable building in the city’s skyline, was established in 1879 by the Williams Brothers as an important part of the community, according to a 2011 article from Cleveland Historical.

“It’s part of the identity of the city,” Samels said. “I think it’s in the best interest of everybody that’s part of a community to want to preserve historic landmarks and place high value on them.”

Once a thriving industrial town, downtown Kent’s historic landmarks show the city’s rich history, according to Cleveland Historical.

Landmarks like the mill “show you where Kent came from way before we were around,” Samels said. So, “naturally people are interested in wanting answers and follow ups on what happened.”

Ruller said the city was grateful for their professional fire department and the assistance of the surrounding city departments that quickly responded to the scene.

“It was a historic fire,” Ruller said. “Thankfully, the folks involved in the response were on it quickly and nobody was hurt.” 

Lauren Bischof is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Matthew Brown, Photo Editor
Matthew is a junior photography major. He has a passion for photography and traveling. Contact him at [email protected].
Anthony Scilla, Assistant Photo Editor
AJ is a sophomore studying public relations. Photography has always been a passion of AJ’s, and he is excited to take this position. Last semester, he had the opportunity to write articles on housing and dining, and he helped cover the mill fire downtown.

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