Photo: The rear of Ohlin’s Bakery that suffered the most damage.
The flash fire that rocked Ohlin’s Bakery early Tuesday morning, March 15, sent the family who’ve owned the store since the 1960s reeling.
“We are still in shock,” said Marybeth Klemm, who with her husband owns and runs the century old Belmont institution in the heart of Cushing Square.
But even as they start the difficult work of getting back on their feet, the Klemm’s have been the recipients of a steady stream of support from their loyal customers.
“It warms our hearts to know the community is rallying behind us,” Marybeth told the Belmontonian Tuesday afternoon, March 15.
Belmont has been following closely the news of the early morning explosion that knocked down both Klemm and his assistant that came from an oven that was turned on to start a long morning of baking the store’s award-winning baked goods including its famous donuts.
“I’m extremely grateful that Paul and Nouri [Hessasta] were not hurt! They have angels watching over them!” said Marybeth.
David Frizzell, Belmont Fire Chief, told the Belmontonian dispatchers received a call at 2:47 a.m. for an explosion and a fire at Ohlin’s at 456 Common St. near the intersection of Trapelo Road.
“When the fire companies arrived, the fire was out,” said Frizzell. Fire personnel found two people at the scene, one, the owner Paul Klemm, had been “engulfed” in the flash fire that followed the explosion. While singed by the flames, both he and Hessasta declined medical attention.
Frizzell said his crews found the back of the operation, where the baking takes place “suffered significant structural damage” with a portion of the roof and a part of the back wall collapsed.
“Right now it’s unsafe to be in that portion of the building so the owner needs to get an engineer in there to do a structural analysis of that section to find out what repairs need to be done,” said Frizzell.
In addition, the front window of Jerry’s Barber Shop next to the bakery was blown out.
While first indications point to natural gas as the culprit, Frizzell said the incident remains under investigation. As a precaution, gas and electrical service were shut off to surrounding businesses so town inspectors could inspect the infrastructure.
Glenn Clancy, director of the Office of Community Development which includes the Building Department which handles inspections, said initial inspection determined the back space of the bakery is “unsafe for occupancy.”
It will be up to the landlord to pull building permits to begin repairs. Clancy’s office will need to inspect the work while other town departments, such as health, will be involved as the business readies to open.
Clancy said he could not say how long the work will take but the retail portion of the building will remain closed until the bakery section is approved for occupancy.
Marybeth said the family is moving forward in reopening the business, although it will be later than sooner before the business opens once again.
“We are in the process of talking with the insurance company. There was a lot of structural damage; so we are not sure how long it will take to fix,” she said.
Marybeth wanted the public to know; “We will try and be back in business as soon as possible! Thanks for your support!”