Fire Destroys East Liverpool Drive-Thru

EAST LIVERPOOL — Gina’s Drive-Thru, 1147 Pennsylvania Ave., was destroyed Sunday when a fire raged through the business, a mainstay in this city’s East End since 1984.

According to Assistant Fire Chief Lance Smith, an employee called in the fire about 10:10 a.m. after making sure everyone was evacuated.

The call came in as a commercial structure fire, Smith said. He and three other firefighters were on duty but two were en route to East Liverpool City Hospital transporting a patient in the department’s ambulance, leaving just him and the other firefighter to initially respond.

As they were heading out the door, the dispatcher called to say a city police officer was on the scene and reporting the fire was fully involved, prompting Smith to call a third alarm, bringing out other firefighters. When the two firefighters with the ambulance completed the patient transport, they immediately returned to the fire station and brought another fire truck to the fire scene. 

“As soon as we got up on the highway, we could see smoke,” Smith said, adding the fire was through the roof of the business when firefighters arrived just a couple minutes after the initial call.

Although Smith could not yet confirm a cause for the fire Sunday, employee Marissa Brandle, who was not working at the time, reported a calendar in the office fell from the wall and ignited from a heater. Smith said the cause remains under investigation at this time. 

A customer reported he was in the drive-through when he saw a “ball of fire” shoot from the office area and he began blowing his vehicle’s horn to alert the employee.

While firefighters worked on the fire, Brandle was on the phone with owner Richard Bissell, whom she said was out of the area on vacation. Reportedly at his request, she asked firefighters to search for some money inside the store, and they were able to salvage a sum of cash, albeit it had been considerably charred. It was taken to the city police department for safekeeping until it could be returned to the owner, who Brandle reported was making his way back to the city as soon as possible.

This was the third fire the city department has battled within the past week, and nearby township fire departments have responded to two fires in recent days. 

“There’s nothing suspicious. They’re under investigation, but it seems likely it’s just a coincidence we’ve had this many fires,” Smith said.

Although no mutual aid from other fire departments was needed for Sunday’s call, Smith said North Star Critical Care was on the scene in the event of any injuries. None were reported. 

Mayor Bobby Smith and Service-Safety Director Bill Jones were also on the scene. Both are retired city firefighters, with Jones recently retiring as chief to assume the administrative position.

Pictured at top: The interior of Gina’s Drive-Thru, East Liverpool, shows the damage from a fire that roared through the business on Sunday.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.