Arson tip reward up to $25,000

WOOSTER, Ohio – A reward of more than $25,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist responsible for the recent string of barn fires in Wayne and Holmes counties.

The Wayne County National Bank has pledged $13,000 to be added to the more than $12,000 offered by the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Commission, Holmes County Farm Bureau, Ohio Farm Bureau, Nationwide/Farmland Insurance and the local citizens’ Stop Arson Reward Pledge Fund, sponsored by the Holmes County Farm Bureau.

David Boyle, president and CEO of the Wayne County National Bank, said it was important to the company to provide a substantial reward to benefit the farmers in the area.

“It didn’t seem like there was much progress being made in the investigation because no one was coming forward with any new information,” said Boyle. “The (Wayne County National Bank) board got together and we thought if we could bring the reward up to a sizable amount we may be able to prevent the next one.

“Some of the victims have been customers, neighbors and friends and the next time it could be my barn or my neighbor’s barn, and we want to prevent that.”

Holmes County Sheriff Tim Zimmerly says his office receives new information every day.

“As long as calls and information keeps coming in, we can keep plugging along. No matter how small something appears to be, whatever they hear and see, they have to call us,” said Zimmerly. “People need to keep their eyes and ears open and watch their property and their neighbor’s property.”

The Holmes County Farm Bureau, Holmes County Sheriff’s Office and the State Fire Marshal have held three arson awareness meetings to help residents know what they can do to protect their property. Zimmerly said approximately 150 people attended each meeting.

Fourteen barns have been lost in suspicious fires since January 2000, causing over $1 million in property loss. The State Fire Marshal believes the increased reward will lead to more information for the investigation.

“The reward program is a tool used to get citizens or witnesses to step forward. Every little bit of information helps,” said Thomas Ratcliff, spokesman for the Ohio State Fire Marshal.

Those with information about the fires should call their local fire department, the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office at 330-674-1936, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office at 330-287-5700, or the State Fire Marshal’s investigation bureau at 800-589-2728.

For pledge forms or information on the Stop Barn Arson Reward pledge, call the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, the Homes County Farm Bureau at 800-641-7648 or the Monitor Bank at 330-496-2981.

(Reporter Annie Santoro can be reached at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or asantoro@farmanddairy.com.)

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