SALEM, Ohio – Two barns, both more than 100 years old, are the latest losses in the rash of barn fires that plague Holmes and Wayne counties. Both have been ruled as suspected arson and are under investigation.
The barns, located less than 10 miles apart, were completely destroyed by early morning fires Sept. 28.
A neighbor reported the blaze that destroyed a barn owned by Paul and Elizabeth Young on State Route 39 west of Millersburg shortly before 5 a.m. The alert came less than two hours after another fire was reported in Big Prairie. The structure, owned by Joseph Yoder, was also a complete loss.
Total loss. The Young’s barn was completely engulfed in flames when Holmes Fire District No. 1 arrived on the scene.
“We had no chance to save it,” said Roger Boring, department chief. More than 30 firefighters responded, including mutual aid from Holmesville, East Holmes and Killbuck.
“When we first heard about the Yoder fire, some people thought it might not be related to the other arsons. But when the pages went out for the fire at Young’s, everyone began to reassess the situation,” Boring said.
The fire progressed rapidly and responders could only try to contain the fire.
“It was too far gone when we got there,” Boring said.
‘Smiley face’ barn. The barn was a local historic landmark, known for the huge smiley face painted on the side. Boring noted the barn was “always taken superb care of” and “clean enough in there to eat off the floor.”
Among the losses in the fire was an antique John Deere tractor, dump trucks, a backhoe and numerous pieces of farm equipment.
The incident is still under investigation by the Holmes Fire District No. 1, county sheriff and the Ohio Fire Marshal.
Since January 2000, 15 barns have been destroyed by fire in the two counties to a total of 15. Not all of those were arson-related, according to Boring. Most of the fires have been concentrated in an area between Nashville and Holmesville and the Holmes and Wayne county boundary lines.
Reward offered. The Stop Barn Arson Reward, a bounty for information that assists law enforcement in the conviction of the person responsible for the arsons in Wayne and Holmes counties, exceeds $25,000.
Anyone with information on any of the fires should call the Holmes County Sheriff at 330-674-1936.
(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)