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Too soon to tell if Hough Health Center, damaged by fire Wednesday night, can be saved

Hough community vows to rebuild
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Posted at 11:01 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 18:41:35-04

CLEVELAND — Cleveland firefighters battled a fire at Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services' Hough Health Center Wednesday night.

The fire started on the second floor of the building and extended to the roof.

A firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.

A spokesperson with Cleveland Division of Fire said the fire appears to have started in the pediatric reception area.

"Fire has been determined to be undetermined," Lt. Mike Norman said. "It was unintentional and likely electrical, but they are still investigating."

Lt. Norman told News 5 the initial damage estimate appears to be $1 million, but medical equipment inside could increase that estimate. It's too soon to tell if the 47-year-old structure can be saved.

By Thursday morning, cars crept past what remained of the building.

Longtime patients, such as Larry Harris, were among those who stopped.

"I think it’s a shame," he said. "It means the world to me, for those of us who tend to fall by the wayside."

Count Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones among those reliving memories of Hough Health Center.

"I used to come here as a child," he said. "For people who feel the big institutions are too massive for them, this is where they come. Even though we’re around world-class institutions, many of that has not resonated yet with the residents of our community. NEON has filled that gap."

Karen Butler serves as the Chief Operating Officer for NEON, Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, which runs the Hough Health Center and other neighboring locations.

She told News 5 this location serves more than 20,000 patients a year, with a staff of about 50, that will now migrate to other locations.

"This is an unfortunate situation but not insurmountable," she said. "We are here, we will continue to be here, and in terms of what we do now and where we go from now, we’re making sure everyone one of our patients who were previously seen at this location has an opportunity to continue their care at any of our other centers in our network."

"We must rebuild this place," Jones added. "If we don’t, I’m afraid of not just the present impact, but what it could mean for future generations."