CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — Owners of the downtown Cambridge Springs property that burned down in May are suing the business that was amid renovations to the downstairs for negligence.

Rod and Debbie Miller, owners of the property at 276-8 S. Main St. in Cambridge Springs, have filed a suit with the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas against Hardwaters Brewing LLC and Bethany Kissell of Townville. Kissell and her husband William own Hardwaters, which was slated to complete renovations to the first floor restaurant/shop space of the building in August and open to the public.

The Millers are requesting monetary damages outside the arbitration limits of the court.

At approximately 6:50 p.m. May 12, the building caught fire, destroying the building and forcing the collapse of the second floor into the first, according to the Millers' complaint. The property also had four second-floor apartments. The Millers’ building was insured.

The Kissells, as part of their renovations to their brewery space, were staining the bar area with Zar oil-based wood stain, according to the complaint filed with the court. Bethany Kissell had been staining the bar with the oil-based stain the day before the fire and had left the property at about 1 p.m., leaving a trash bag filled to the top with trash against the east wall of the bathroom. There were two five-gallon buckets in front and pieces of wood around the trash bag.

The documents state the safety sheet for the Zar wood stain states, "to avoid spontaneous combustion during temporary storage, soak soiled rags and waste immediately after use, in a water filled, closed metal container." The complaint says Bethany “improperly discarded” the Zar stained rags into one of the buckets and did not follow the safety protocol.

On May 12, the fire began in the bar area where the rags were discarded near the garbage bag. The Millers maintain the fire was caused by the rags and other stained waste “spontaneously heating and igniting as they dried.” Following the fire, the building was deemed a loss and has been demolished, leaving a gap in the borough’s downtown business area.

The court documents state Tuscarora Wayne Insurance Co. paid the Millers more than $780,000 for the damages and $95,000 to demolish the building. Tuscarora Wayne also paid more than $35,000 to Mammouth, a property restoration company, for inspection equipment and to discover the cause of the fire. The complaint also said the Millers have lost and continue to lose $27,700 in income from the property.

The complaint charged that Hardwaters' negligence in using reasonable care or hiring “competent” workmen to stain the bar area or not warning the Millers of the “dangerous condition” of the rags and other waste, resulting in the fire and subsequent damages.

Rod Miller declined to comment on the matter. The Kissells did not return requests for comment.

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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