September 27, 2021

Two teens charged in fire at former Uncle Vic’s Night Club in Elyria | Lorain County

Elyria police have charged two 17-year-old males in connection with a fire Feb. 24 that destroyed the former location of Uncle Vic’s Night Club.

At 7:54 p.m., firefighters arrived 100 Washington Ave., known as Washington Towers, and encountered fire covering three stories of the structure nearest to Merchants Alley and Kerstetter Way.

The fire was put under control around 3 a.m., Feb. 25.

Crews worked throughout the night with mutual aid provided by nearly every fire department in Lorain County, according to a news release from Elyria.

Elyria fire Assistant Chief Joe Pronesti said crews arrived to heavy smoke and a blaze and called it one of the most significant fires of his career.

“I really can’t thank enough the firefighters from my city here in Elyria, but all over the county that responded,” Pronesti said. “This was a serious fire, probably one of the top of my career.

“But, we did an amazing job, and I’m proud.”

Pronesti said the building was constructed with heavy timber with a lot of open space and fire can travel rapidly throughout.

He said there were four shafts inside the building that contributed to the spread of the blaze.

As of about 10 a.m., Feb. 25, the center of the building still was burning, with the Robinson Building on Broad Street expected to have sustained smoke damage.

No injuries have been reported, the release said.

The building also is in the process of being demolished, which began at 4 a.m., and will take up to five days to complete, the release said.

“They can’t just take it down like a normal building because of the proximity to the Robinson Building,” Pronesti said. “It’s still burning in the middle of the building pretty well and pretty good, but we’re just making sure nothing gets into the Robinson Building.”

He also said that the building lies closely to the railroad tracks and the largest power lines in the city, which have yet to be de-energized. 

Therefore, the building will be slowly picked apart, column by column, over the next several days.

Elyria Mayor Frank Whitfield lauded the firefighters in likely saving an entire city block.

“We should be so proud,” Whitfield said. “I saw a story that said it’s a sad day for Elyria, but I think we should also be proud of our firefighters and what they’ve done and the mutual aid they came as well.

“So as the acting chief (Pronesti) mentioned, stay away from downtown as they’re getting things cleaned up, but again, this is a proud night for how we respond to these are firefighters save the block here downtown.”

Cleanup to the area is estimated to last between two and three weeks.

The Elyria Police Department started an investigation on scene for possible arson.

One 17-year-old male of Elyria is charged in Lorain County Juvenile Court with aggravated arson, breaking and entering and failure to report a crime.

A second suspect, also of Elyria, is charged with breaking and entering.

Both teens were transported to the Lorain County Detention Home pending a hearing with Juvenile Court.

Other arrests

As firefighters were working the fire Feb. 24, another man was arrested on a charge of misconduct during an emergency, as well as issued a citation for operation of vehicle on or near highways, streets or roads.

Around 10:30 p.m., officers were maintaining a crowd that had formed to watch firefighters extinguish the blaze.

An area was blocked off so officers could work at the scene, where Elyria City Council members also stood.

The man was riding a minibike on the downtown sidewalk directly into the blocked off area, screaming and driving through the caution tape.

An officer grabbed the back of his jacket and took him to the ground to prevent him from driving through the crowd.

Police arrested the man without incident and issued him a summons.