Three barn fires in two weeks; wet hay believed to blame for two of them


SALEM, Ohio — Three Ohio barns have been destroyed due to fire since July 7.

Two barn fires in Licking County have been directly connected to spontaneous combustion caused by the storage of wet hay. A third fire in Medina County remains under investigation, but hay has not been ruled out as a cause.

Medina County

Chatham Township Fire Chief Byron Fike in Medina County confirmed hay had been placed in the barn two days before the fire and additional hay was placed in the barn earlier this summer.

Fike said neighbors heard a loud boom before seeing smoke and flames shoot out of the roof. Six fire departments worked to put out the fire.

The Double D Farms is a Thoroughbred facility known for boarding and breeding services. The barn had 25 horses in it when the fire broke out around 8 a.m. July 15. One horse died in the blaze.

“It was a big loss. The entire barn was destroyed,” Fike said.

Fike said the fire remains under investigation, but added there is no reason to suspect arson.

He said when the fire crews from seven departments pulled up to the barn, the roof was already collapsing. The smoke was viewed in Brunswick about 15 miles from the barn.

Licking County

Meanwhile earlier in the week, Licking County firefighters battled two blazes — both blamed directly on spontaneous combustion.

The first blaze occurred July 13 around 9:30 p.m. on Reynolds Drive near Utica in Burlington Township at a barn owned by Phil and Donna Shipley. The damage, estimated to be over $250,000, included the 60-by-120 barn, a six-month-old tractor and feed mixer. The barn contained 560 large square bales at the time of the fire.

“It was definitely spontaneous combustion,” said Homer Assistant Fire Chief Allen Bash. “The fire began on the other side of the barn away from the tractor and the barn had no electricity. Every tanker out of Knox County and about two-thirds of Licking County came out to help fight the blaze.”

Bash said he was afraid when he initially evaluated the blaze that all of the buildings, including the dairy, would go up. But the fire companies were able to keep the flames in check.

The assistant chief added the barn owners took measures to prevent such a tragedy but still lost the battle. They applied a special preservative to the hay four weeks ago to prevent microbial growth and spontaneous combustion but firefighters think it wore off and the microbes started growing.

Another barn destroyed by flames caused by wet hay was just a short drive away in Washington Township also in Licking County. The Utica Fire Department was called to a home along the Knox County line.

A barn owned by Donald and Patty Cornelius received over $80,000 in damages. Capt. Brooks Schmidlin, of the Utica Fire Department, said the couple was careful about putting wet hay in the barn, but the fire still occurred.

“My advice to any farmer is to make sure the hay is dry before you put in the barn and give it a little space for it to breathe,” Schmidlin said.

The blaze began around 11:30 a.m. July 7 and destroyed the 40-by-100 barn and the 250 round bales inside.

Schmidlin said the hay had been placed in the barn between two and three weeks before the fire broke out. The work of 13 fire departments and 240,000 gallons of water was used to douse the flames.

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Don’t let it happen to you: Penn State advice on avoiding hay fires.


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  1. We almost had one the other day it was our first cutting stuff on top of our goat barn I stuck my hand in it to get some out and it felt like it burnt my hand so we threw it down from the loft.


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