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Star of the West mill complex, Kent's oldest building, catches fire

Firefighters from several Northeast Ohio departments have been fighting the flames at the building, which first opened in 1879.

KENT, Ohio — A former flour mill and the city of Kent’s oldest building was at the center of Ohio’s attention after it was ablaze Friday morning.

Firefighters from several northeast Ohio departments fought the flames all day – forcing water conservation across the area. It is expected that work on putting out the fire will continue into Saturday.

Bright flames were seen from across Kent, with dark, billowing smoke stretching for miles.

The back of the Star of the West flour mill was left charred.

First responders told 3News it all began just before 9 a.m. Kent fire officials say it’s unclear what caused the blaze.

What began as reports of smoke coming from the mill quickly evolved.

“The fire department's been coming in all morning from Hudson, Stow, Munroe falls, Ravenna, and Tallmadge," said Scott Budzar, owner of Scribbles Coffee. “So that just tells you the scale of things.”

Budzar’s shop is just feet away from where some of the biggest flames were seen.

“We're just two buildings away from where the main fire is right here,” Budzar described.

Like many, Budzar was forced to shut down businesses today after being evacuated by the fire marshal.

“They evacuate to keep everybody safe and obviously to let the fire departments have the space to work and do what they need to do,” Budzar added.

A bird's-eye view of the scene showed firefighters reaching the flames at all angles.

“It's such a massive structure, too, and iconic,” Budzar said.

With all hands on deck to put out the flames, a water conservation notice was issued by the city of Kent, including to all students and faculty at Kent State University.

The former flour mill is a historical marker. The beloved building is the oldest standing in Kent.

The business was founded in 1879 and stayed open until 1999.

Many admired the silos, which presented a unique element to the Kent skyline.

“It used European technology, and so it took over and it became very, very successful,” said Sandy Halem, president of the Kent Historical Society. “1879 until 1999, it's a long time for a continuous business.”

To see the building set ablaze is defined as nostalgic for some.

“Anytime you lose something that cannot be replaced, it is an original,” Halem said. “You can replicate the building, you can build something else, but it's, it's never the original. We may lose part of it, but it looks like we won't be losing all.”

Halem said there have always been plans to renovate and repurpose the Mill and that the fire will play a role in that moving forward.

KENT EVENTS UPDATE 12/3 - An update has been provided by Kent city officials on the "Festival of Lights" event that was scheduled for Sunday:

ATTENTION KENT: Due to the large fire at the Mill on N. Water Street today, the Festival of Lights scheduled to take place tomorrow evening - December 3rd - in downtown Kent has been postponed to next Saturday, December 10th. Other than the date change, all details will remain the same. Any questions, please contact Michelle at the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce at 330.815.4315.

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