SALEM, Ohio — The state fire marshal and Columbiana County sheriff’s deputies are investigating two Oct. 2 fires that destroyed barns in the southeastern part of the county.
A sheriff’s dispatcher said officials are following leads in the investigation surrounding the fires, the two most recent in a string of fiery losses that have locals crying ‘arson.’
“The concern is that there are a large number of suspicious fires within a small geographical area in a small amount of time,” said Cara Keithley, chief of communications for the Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees the state fire marshal’s office.
Keithley said Friday the state has five investigators and one supervisor on the ground in the county investigating a total of 11 fires that have happened since mid-September.
Those fires included the two most recent barns; hay and structures at L.J. Hay near Kensington; plus garages, campers, and a new home under construction.
“It’s still too early to say if they’re connected, but we’re still looking into all of them,” Keithley said.
Keithley also said the state is working with officials here to see if there are other fires not previously reported to the fire marshal that should also be investigated as suspicious and possibly connected.
The L.J. Hay fire’s losses included three barns and hundreds of tons of stacked hay and straw, plus a semi-tractor, aluminum trailer and other equipment.
Wellsville village fire department’s Bill Smith said the most recent blazes, discovered in the early morning of Oct. 2, entirely consumed two barns and thousands of bales of hay or straw on the McCoy and Boyd farms.
At the Boyd fire, at the corner of Oak Ridge Road and state Route 39, losses also included two beef cows that were badly burned and had to be put down, Smith said.
“All that work and expense went up in a single plume of smoke and flames,” one person affected by the fires said. “I don’t think anybody deserves this.”
Anyone with information on any of the fires in the county should call the state fire marshal’s hotline at 800-589-2728.
The state is offering a reward up to $5,000 for information that leads investigators to the person responsible for the fires.
Protect your property from fire by following these tips:
- Light the property as bright as possible, using spotlights or dusk-to-dawn lights when possible.
- Secure tools that make an arsonist’s work easier. Lock up items such as gasoline, kerosene and ladders.
- Use a community watch system. Keep an eye on your property and your neighbor’s property.
- Immediately report any suspicious vehicles or individuals. If something or someone appears to be out of place, call the local authorities.
- Secure any vacant, abandoned or infrequently used buildings.
(Source: Ohio Department of Commerce)