Franklin Twp business destroyed by Friday fire

By Randa Wagner

June 13, 2014

A Franklin Township business was lost to a fire Friday, June 13 on Twp. Rd. 119, west of State Route 314.

Perry-Congress (Johnsville) Firefighters were dispatched as well as Mt. Gilead and Big Walnut Fire, Troy Township and Fredericktown. The building was fully involved and the roof was collapsing by the time firefighters arrived.

John Yust, Deputy Fire Marshall for Perry-Congress Twp., said Troyers Hardwood, an Amish-owned sawmill, used gasoline and diesel powered equipment. Yust said the Wednesday before the fire, two engines were serviced by a mechanic and an alternator was replaced in one engine. The engine was started up 7:30 a.m. Friday morning, and at 8:20 a.m. an employee noticed a fire at one of the engines. Employees tried to put out the fire with ABC handheld extinguishers but the fire was growing so quickly, a call was made to 911 for help. Employees evacuated the building and smoke could be seen as far as five miles away.

Caps from fuel tanks outside the buildings popped off and flames shot up like torches. Dozens of Amish gathered to watch the fire and some workers pulled what equipment they could away from the building.

Yust said the fire was brought under control by 9:00 a.m. and firefighters finished up about 11:00 a.m. The Perry-Congress fire investigation team determined the fire originated at the engine that had the alternator replaced. The exact cause of the fire is undetermined but was ruled as accidental.

Yust said the sawmill was a total loss, estimating total damages at about $125,000.00. He added that the Johnsville Fire Department, with the assistance of the mutual aid companies, Morrow County Red Cross, Morrow County 911 and EMS, was a ‘textbook example of what Morrow County emergency workers train and prepare for’

“We were able to prevent additional damage, control the event, render aid to the business owner and back up and support others,” Yust said. “The sheriff’s office kept traffic and onlookers from interfering and kept the roads open for emergency traffic. The state fire marshall’s office was immediate in their response with unlimited resources, should we have needed them. Their regional representative was hands-on. What made this a unique day, from a fire-safety standpoint, is that the state investigator, and one of our ranking officers and leading fire investigators in the state, just happened to be available. We have trained together and were able to be there with the fire personnel and resolve the situation in a timely fashion.”

The Johnsville Fire Cadets also responded to the scene.

“They were able to assist with details that would have taken time away from the firefighters,” Yust said. “They moved hose, guided and directed tankers to portable ponds, assisted with rehab of firefighters, were instrumental as runners for equipment and reloading equipment and getting the trucks back in service.”

Yust was appreciative of all the agencies that assisted at the scene, offering a special thanks to the sheriff’s office for their help, the American Red Cross for supplying food and drink for all on the scene, and the EMS to monitor firefighters for heat exhaustion and dehydration. He also mentioned the 9-1-1 dispatch center ‘knew what we needed, with very few exceptions, by listening to the radio and knowing our tactics.’

“They were seven miles away and were still personally involved and seeing that all needed resources were there,” Yust maintained. “No resources were wasted that left other parts of the county unprotected.”

“On a day that it ended up raining on a fire that could have lasted longer than it did, the fire chief had, at his disposal, a fire safety engineer, an assistant state fire marshall, an investigator from Mansfield City and several investigators from station 59 that just happened to be off work at the same time,” Yust marvelled. ‘We in Morrow County train together and believe in and take care of our neighbors. From the beginning of the operation to the end, it went exactly as it should have; the command was just phenomenal.”