Gates Fire
Ohio glass business Gates Brothers Glass saw one of its facilities go up in flames last Saturday.

Gates Brothers Glass suffered a loss to its business on Saturday. The company’s Bellefontaine, Ohio, facility, which housed machinery for edging glass, making insulating units, polishing and aluminum fabrication, went up in flames on August 8, 2015.

“My wife and I were celebrating our 39th wedding anniversary on Friday and on Saturday, I received a call at about 5:50 a.m. that the facility was on fire,” says Bruce Gates, vice president.

Gates was on scene for several hours while firefighters and first responders battled the flames.

“A lifetime of work and dreams changed in just an instant,” he says.

Estimated cost of damages is around $50,000, according to the fire department. However, the actual damages have yet to be determined.
Estimated cost of damages is around $50,000, according to the fire department. However, the actual total loss has yet to be determined.

A few weeks earlier, the company had new gas lines installed into the facility, which was undergoing renovations to add aluminum fabrication. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Fire Department estimates the loss at $500,000, but Gates says this is still under evaluation so the total loss has not yet been determined.

“My brother Tom and I bought the building in 1998 and had an insulating glass machine up and running by 1999,” he explains. “We also did edging on glass and metal fabrication for storefronts.”

The company’s automotive glass business next door was not affected.

“Although this has caused an impact on business, it hasn’t crippled us,” Gates says. “Losing the equipment is tough. But we still have metal fabrication up and running in our Sidney, Ohio, location. The biggest area to see impact will be insulating glass. We will have to outsource this in the interim. We also stored all of our Plexiglas in that building. We’ll have to order and replace a lot.”

Customers should not witness any impact in services, Gates says.

“They just may have to wait a bit longer for insulating glass,” he adds.

The facility has extensive damage. The building has some historical significance. It was a hanger from the McCook airfield, which pre-dated the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

McCook Field was an airfield and aviation experimentation station operated by the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps and its successor, the United States Army Air Service from 1917-1927.

“The person we bought the building from … his father had bought the building from the government and moved it to its location at 233 W. Columbia Avenue in Bellefontaine, Ohio,” Gates explains. “It was rebuilt to some extent, but most of the materials used were from the 1930s.”

No employees have been impacted by the loss.

“It will take another few weeks to sort through all this,” he says.

The company has five locations serving the Ohio area, offering commercial glazing services, in addition to residential and automotive.

“We live in a good community,” Gates says. “People have been very supportive. Some even offered us the use of a storage building. But we have enough space that we can work it out. We’ll get through this.”

As to whether Gates will rebuild on the property, he says it’s too soon to tell.