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The events leading up to the closing and reopening of the Bainbridge Target

On the evening of Monday Jan. 8, notifications flooded phones, conversations exploded and citizens grew increasingly concerned. At around 6 p.m. that evening, the Bainbridge Target had employees and customers escorted out of a smoking establishment, ensuring safety among all.

Teenagers’ go-to spot had been seized and locals were unable to reach their necessities, having to take extra time to travel to another Target location to be able to get the products they needed.

Now with Target reopening Jan.19, there are still numerous questions unanswered, causing confusion throughout the community.

caption – False news article report from BNN Breaking.

When information first came out to the public, many articles stated that a man tried to set himself on fire and that fire was the cause that spread smoke throughout Target. But, according to Chief of Police Jon Bokovitz at the Bainbridge Township Police Department, there is no evidence of that claim.

“The person, we believe, is a 43-year-old male from Amsterdam, Ohio which is in North Carroll County,” said Bokovitz.

The perpetrator is currently being mentally evaluated in Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and will remain in police custody following a warrant of arrest because of the arson committed.

“When the call came in they believed [the callers] that it was from arson, and they gave a clothing description of the suspect,” said Bokovitz. “When the officers arrived, one of the officers saw someone matching that description crossing the parking lot, and he teamed him because of the description we were given.”

After reviewing video surveillance, the police department is almost positive that their given description matched their suspect. Many Solon students also heard that there were two males who started the fire, but there is no evidence of there being two males involved.

Assistant Chief of Bainbridge Fire Department Wayne Burge was off-duty when the initial call for the fire came in and was around a minute away from the area.

“The PD [police department] requested a squad, so I started to head that way in case they did need one,” said Burge.

Upon arrival, Burge was notified that the fire began in the tech department of Target, which is in the back corner of the store itself. As Burge described it, the fire occurred in the aisle in which books lined shelves on one side and greeting cards on other.

“I established command, that’s what we do on every fire, I found the fire and the sprinkler system was already activated, so it really contained the fire,” said Burge. “I grabbed the dry chemical fire extinguisher, knocked the rest of the fire out, exited the building, and waited for my resources to come in.”

As a firefighter, Burge has to adjust to situations quickly, not having time to formulate a plan.

“Your mindset is on one task and one incident, and then suddenly you have to change gears, which is probably the hardest part about the job,” said Burge. “Sometimes it is split second decisions that you have to make in this job.”

When resources such as fire trucks and their supplies reached Target, they attempted to ventilate the smoke that started to overcome the building.

“When the first engine got there, I sent them in to make sure that the fire was completely out,” Burge said.

Employees and customers were already evacuated before the police and firefighters arrived on scene.

“When I arrived on scene the store had just finished being evacuated,” said Burge. “They actually did a fantastic job with the evacuation.”

Burge and the rest of his crew always follow multiple evacuation routines to ensure everyone is safe and there is no one left in the building.

Picture taken by entrance of Target, courtesy of Elle Davis.

“We do a primary evacuation, which we believe was already done by the store employees, but we always double check so we did a secondary evacuation.”

Employees like SHS junior Morgan Frankel were evacuated in groups, and after some time, taken to Buffalo Wild Wings for several hours while investigation began for the start of the fire.

“After an hour of sitting outside [of Buffalo Wild Wings] the general manager let us come inside,” Frankel said. “We were there for maybe six hours, the first hour being outside of Buffalo Wild Wings, and then the rest of time was spent inside of Buffalo Wild Wings.”

According to Burge, because the cause of the fire was unknown, keeping the employees away from the building was a necessary precaution.

“For any fire that we don’t know how it started, the Geauga Fire Investigation Unit comes in and does an investigation,” said Burge.

The loss seems to add up to over $2 million in fire loss according to Burge, but he believes that’s just to start things off.

“Fire damage was contained to some of the books and the cards and again the sprinkler system helped immensely,” said Burge. “There was really no damage to the building other than a couple of ceiling tiles falling due to the sprinkler system. The entire structure had been charged with fire, which is where most of the damage is coming from. The big loss is all the contents, the sweaters, pants, shoes, towels, even the food because they can’t sell that stuff once they contain odors of smoke.”

Frankel did not get home until late in the evening, having to receive her stuff in puddles because of the sprinklers.

“Our stuff is right in the front of the building to the right of the entrance which is where our lockers and the general manager’s office is,” said Frankel. “The moment I walked in there I was trying not to slip because there was water everywhere, and the smell of smoke was just lingering around. By the time I got home, I smelled like I had been at a campfire for hours.”

After this incident, it took Target eight days to restock ruined merchandise and get the building safe and secure for returning employees and customers.

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