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Historic Creegan Co. building destroyed by fire

Updated: Thursday, December 12 2013, 04:57 PM EST


More than 16 hours after a piece of Steubenville's history was ravaged by fire, crews remained at the scene trying to control the flames.

The blaze tore through the Creegan Co. building Wednesday just around 7:30 p.m. As of noon Thursday, the building at the intersection of Fifth and Washington streets was still burning, and Washington Street remained closed from 5th to 7th streets.

Crews said they were letting pockets of fire inside the building burn out, and a Steubenville fire official confirmed the building is destroyed.

Officials said the building may be at risk structurally and a building inspector was at the scene Thursday to assess the building's stability. If it's determined the structure must come down, the mayor will call for an emergency demolition.

The fire broke out Wednesday evening and a number of fire crews worked to keep the flames from spreading. A nearby apartment building, The Washington Square apartments, was evacuated while crews worked to contain the blaze.

Officials tell NEWS9 the Creegan Co. building was vacant. The store itself -– which was known for its puppet creations -– closed in 2010.

"To see such a landmark like this go up in flames like this is very sad to myself and anyone else that's been around Steubenville for any number of years," said Greg Froehlich, owner of Froehlich's Classic Corner.

Sean Creegan, the son of the company's founders, spent several hours at the scene Wednesday night watching as flames destroyed 50 years of history.

"(I'm) still a little numb," Creegan said. "It's rough to handle. …Once it's gone it's gone. We had it preserved. Eventually we were going to move everything out of there, but it just didn't happen."

Creegan said the popular puppets and designs were once shipped all over the world. He said many people who had done the design work for his family's business are now deceased.

"Probably 50 years of design work, creativity from some of the most creative people in the valley. That's probably the biggest loss," he said. "The original molds for the characters, the equipment that was used to create that---you can never get it back. You've got 50 years of creativity that was used. It's just gone."

He said he's been speaking with his sisters and his father, Dr. George Creegan, who was the business' original puppeteer.

"He took it pretty hard last night, as we all did," Sean Creegan said.

Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci was at the scene Thursday morning, commending firefighters for their hard work containing the blaze to one building. Mucci said the entire city if feeling a sense of loss.

"Without a doubt it was well-known throughout the United States and even overseas, so it's really a sad day for us, but we're thankful no one was hurt," Mucci said.

Steubenville Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi said firefighters braved freezing temperatures, and wintry weather was an obstacle as they battled the blaze.

"Pretty much everything that was wet turned to ice -- the sidewalks, the streets, all our gear. Ice freezes on the ladders (and) makes them unsafe to climb on… The winds were blowing strong so it affected our visibility with all the smoke."

Sean Creegan said all of his siblings are making their way to Steubenville to see what little is left of a business unique to the Ohio Valley and their family.

"It was an incredible business to grow up in, so…there was a lot lost there," Creegan said. "You just keep going. If there's anything that can be salvaged, we'll try to do that. That'll probably be the first thing," Creegan said.

Stay with NEWS9 and for continuing coverage.

Historic Creegan Co. building destroyed by fire

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