Arson suspected in Stark Co. barn fire

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SALEM, Ohio – Arson is suspected and an investigation is under way after a 155-year-old bank barn in Stark County burned to the ground Sept. 22.
The barn, owned by Daniel and Keturah Miller, was at 11951 Mogadore Ave. N.W., just outside Uniontown.
Account. Raymond Miller, the couple’s son, said his parents were awakened and alerted shortly after 2 a.m. by a man who rents a house trailer on their property.
The Millers called 911 and then their son. When Raymond Miller arrived at the farm next door to his own, the entire barn was in flames.
“The whole neighborhood was lit up. It was a big light,” he said.
Difficulty. Raymond Miller said the responding fire departments had difficulty pumping enough water to fight the blaze, and that his parents lost their landmark red bank barn, milk house, feed room and a nearby pole building used for freestalls.
Raymond Miller, who milks 70 cows next door, used the facility to overwinter his heifers. Luckily, he said, the herd was on pasture when the fire broke out.
The fire also claimed two gravity wagons, two hay wagons, a forage wagon and a hay elevator. One hay wagon, on loan to Ray and stowed away at his farm, was spared.
“I guess we should have borrowed some of that stuff and not returned it. We really could use that forage wagon right now,” he said.
Memories. Raymond Miller said the barn and farmstead had been in his family since the late 1930s, when his father moved there at age 12. The barn had been built in 1852, he said.
Daniel Miller has lived at the farm nearly all his adult life, and he and Keturah raised six children on the farm, their son said.
“It was a good, strong barn. I have a lot of memories and put in a lot of hard work there,” he said.
“That barn was real special to mom and dad,” he said, noting the Millers opened their farm to school tours some 30 years ago. Ray Miller now leads the tours at his own farm.
More losses. Also lost in the blaze was a silo, 4,000 bales of hay and 2,000 bales of straw. Raymond Miller said other than the structures, the hay was perhaps the hardest hit felt on the farm.
“That hay was our biggest loss. We needed that,” he said, noting supplies are down and prices are up nationwide.
Another concern was the loss of winter housing for the dairy herd.
“I guess we’ll just have to clean up and build something else quick,” he said.
Moving on. Insurance adjusters were on the scene to survey the damage Sept. 24, Raymond Miller said.
“Dad really never did believe in insurance much, but he had a little bit [to cover the property],” he said.
The entire Miller family, despite their losses, believes they were spared.
Neighbors from an allotment that abuts the farm watched the blaze from their homes, then came out to tell the Millers they had been praying for them.
Raymond Miller said the bank barn was surrounded on three sides by other outbuildings and his parents’ house, and a strong northward wind carried sparks away from their home.
“We’re really convinced God was watching.”
Response. Uniontown Fire Department Lt. Denise Hostetler said 41 firefighters from at least five departments battled the blaze. Responding departments were Uniontown, Greentown, Hartville, Suffield Township and the City of Green.
Crews were on the scene until after 11 a.m.
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at azippay@farmanddairy.com.)

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