Tallmadge barn fire kills 15 horses

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Barn fire
15 horses were killed in a barn fire Thursday afternoon. (Photo courtesy Robert J. Lucas / Tallmadge Express)

TALLMADGE, Ohio — A barn fire Thursday morning, Jan. 8, is blamed for the deaths of 15 horses. The barn is part of the 900-acre Mindale Farms, which was started by Carter Lumber founder Van Carter, and is now owned by his granddaughter, Trina Carter.

The horses — Arabians, Standardbreds and a Haflinger gelding — were being kept in the barn, on East Howe Road, until the cold day warmed up a bit. Many of them were older horses, so they were not let out into the pasture, as they normally are around 8:30 a.m.

Nancy Csonka, a caretaker of animals at the farm, said she was getting ready to take a cat to the veterinarian when her partner, Tim Kelly, said the barn was on fire.

Csonka ran to the barn and tried to get into the barn to get the horses out, but it was already too “inferno like.”

The fire had already ripped through the roof and was already in the stalls. There was nothing she or anyone could do to stop the fire or help the horses.

Csonka said she is still trying to process how quickly the fire accelerated. The hay and shavings are stored in a separate location and only a few bales were kept in the barn on pallets.

“In an instant, the fire takes your dreams,” said Tim Kelly, who also works as an animal caretaker at the farm. “It’s your worst nightmare.”

The Standardbred horses were owned by Carter and the others were owned by Csonka.

The Tallmadge Fire Department received the call of the  barn on fire at Mindale Farm at 11:25 a.m.

Tallmadge Fire Chief Patrick Gaffney said as the department arrived, firefighters could see a big plume of smoke, and as they neared the structure, it became evident the department could do nothing for the trapped horses because the barn was “fully engulfed,” with flames rolling from one end of the horse barn to the other.

The Tallmadge Fire Department called for mutual aid from Monroe Falls, and tankers from the Brimfield, Suffield and Springfield fire departments.

Firefighters’ focus shifted to preventing the fire from spreading to other structures.

The exact cause of the fire has not been determined, as the investigation by the state fire marshal continues.

Csonka did say workers had placed portable heaters in a groundhog hole outside of the barn in an attempt to thaw frozen water pipes, but Gaffney said a definite cause or ignition location had not been found as of Jan. 12.

According to the National Fire Safety Council, the overheating of plumbing related heater devices to prevent or thaw frozen pipes is one of the top causes of barn fires in the United States.

Preventing fires in barns during the winter

  • Clear any flammables from the frozen pipes before beginning work. This includes hay, cobwebs and spray cans.
  • Don’t leave the thawing project unattended.
  • Don’t let animals roam the area near the heater. Remember animals are nosy, and could knock the heater over.
  • Don’t use open flames like torches.
  • Have a fire extinguisher close to the area you are working in. Make sure they are working and are large enough to handle a possible blaze.
  • Check any extension cords you may use for any wear and tear. Make sure animals can’t get to them.
Source: U.S. Fire Administration

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