"It was his life."
A Thursday night fire destroyed Graves Implement in Wakeman, obliterating the building and about 25 tractors.
(NOTE - To see pictures of the fire damage, click HERE.)
Wakeman Fire District Chief Dave Wilson said the fire started a little after 10 p.m. and five departments, comprising about 35 firefighters, responded. Smoke was visible and flames were shooting through the roof, Wilson said.
"It was a pretty good fire," the chief said.
Graves Implement has been providing service for farm tractors and equipment since 1936. The business was started by Fred Graves, father of the current owner, David Graves.
David Graves took over the business in 1969 and has been combining extensive knowledge and experience with International Harvester tractors for almost half a century. The business specialized in complete and partial restoration, painting, engine repairs, tune-ups and compete rebuilds.
As Graves combed through the rubble with investigators Friday morning, his daughter, Amy Swope, talked about how much the business meant to him.
"He loved working on tractors," she said. "This is what he did."
Swope talked about growing up right next to the building, located at 43 Pleasant St., and how much it meant to her.
The Norwalk High School teacher said they were at her Huron home Thursday night when they got the call.
"When we got to Western Reserve High School, we could see the fire," she said. "This is sad."
Wilson said most of his firefighters, who responded shortly after the fire started, were on scene for six hours while firefighters from the other departments were on scene three to four hours.
Wilson said the cause of the fire and where it started is unknown at this time. He did not have a monetary damage estimate and wasn't sure how much water was used to extinguish the fire.
State Fire Marshall's spokesman Michael Duchesne said the investigation is in its early stages, but it's not considered suspicious. The fire marshall's office doesn't just investigate arson cases, Duchesne said, but also responds when fire departments request its expertise to investigate a fire's origin. Duchesne said it's "way too early" to speculate on a time frame as to when the investigation will be complete.
In addition to the Wakeman Fire District, departments from Townsend, Florence, Camden and New London responded.