DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — An early morning fire damaged a commercial building complex housing a former airplane factory founded by the Wright Brothers in Ohio on Sunday, authorities said.
Dayton fire crews were sent to the site just before 2:30 a.m. and found heavy fire throughout the complex. Fire crews used hoses to spray water on the flames and used aerial ladders to get water into openings in the roof.
The Dayton Daily News reports that crews were still on the scene nearly 12 hours after the fire was reported. Black smoke continued to stream from a collection of multiple hangar buildings, including historic Wright Brothers airplane factory hangars, and flames could be seen on the backside of the hangars, the paper reported.
Wilbur and Orville Wright conducted history’s first successful manned, power plane flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.
Capt. Brad French with the Dayton Fire Department said in a news release that the structure involved is listed on the National Historic Register as the first aircraft manufacturing facility founded by the Wright Brothers.
Mackensie Wittmer, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Area, said in a Facebook post that the group was “deeply saddened by the fire that damaged our historic Wright Company airplane factory, the first-purpose built buildings for the aviation industry.” Officials were working to assess the damage, Wittmer said.
The Wright Company, formed by the Wright brothers in November 1909, produced about 120 airplanes in 13 different models, according to the National Aviation Heritage Area.
It has said the plane production buildings were constructed in 1910 and 1911.
The group has worked to preserve and restore the factory as a site of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park “completing the story of the Wright brothers’ invention, development, and commercialization of the airplane in Dayton,” officials said.
A year ago, city commissioners authorized more than $1.4 million to clean up the Wright Factory site as the city works with the National Park Service to create a museum in the hangar space. Two hangars had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation and a damage estimate has not yet been released.