HUDSON — The community is raising money to install wireless fire detection systems inside two dozen or so unprotected buildings in the city's historic downtown shopping area.
Fire Chief Jerry Varnes is helping lead the effort to put a $350,000, state-of-the-art system into the buildings on North Main Street between Park Lane and Owen Brown Street. He said there are about 60 to 70 businesses in these buildings, which are more than 100 years old.
“The vast majority of the buildings have no smoke detectors or fire protection of any kind,” Varnes said. “A couple of the restaurants have a hood system and a couple of the restaurants have [something] a little more advanced than that, but hardly anybody has anything.
“… If that was to burn down, it would just absolutely devastate this town."
Hudson needs to avoid what happened in historic downtown Garrettsville in 2014, when a fire destroyed many businesses in that area, Varnes said. The fire "devastated that entire section of their downtown and they’re still recovering more than five years later."
Donovan Husat, co-president of Hudson Heritage Association, said his organization will provide financial support to the project.
“It came as a shock to us to learn how little fire detection equipment there is in the buildings between Park Lane and Owen Brown Street,” Husat said. “The loss of Main Street to fire, as happened in 1892, would forever change the character of Hudson. Recovery from the economic damage done to the building owners, the merchants and the community would be very lengthy and difficult.”
A nonprofit organization called the North Main Street Fire Detection System Committee is being formed to collect donations for the project. The committee comprises Varnes, Assistant City Manager of Professional Services Thom Sheridan, special events coordinator Rhonda Kadish and the leaders of the Hudson Community Foundation and Hudson Heritage Association.
The association is the lead agency in the effort and the foundation has agreed to collect and process donations. Rotary Club of Hudson and the Rotary Club of Hudson Clocktower have submitted letters of support for the project, and Hudson Kiwanis also backs the effort, the chief said.
In addition, building and business owners will be asked to help support the fire detection project. If there is buy-in from the building owners, Varnes said the committee will approach philanthropic groups and historic preservation organizations for additional support.
Kate Schlademan, owner of the Learned Owl Book Shop, is in a block where a majority of the buildings are made of wood.
“I think anything we can do to help in that area would be beneficial for all of us,” Schlademan said.
Schlademan, who also owns the building, said she would be willing to provide financial support for the system.
“I’m happy that they’re looking into more technologically advanced measures to help with things like this,” she said.
Varnes said Honeywell recently developed a wireless fire alarm detection system that “seems to be tailor fit for downtown.”
Rather than running wires into the buildings, Varnes said “you can screw in a photo sensor here, a smoke detector there, a horn strobe here and just screw them into the wall. They speak [via] Bluetooth to the main component unit that is down in the basement.”
That component unit — which can be shared by four to six buildings — would receive a signal from the system and “call out to the alarm company and get the fire alarm activated for the fire department,” Varnes said.
Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.