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PRAIRIE TWP. -- Although a quick response and quick knock down kept a March 18 barn fire from spreading to a nearby house, it wasn't enough to save the barn and the two horses that perished inside.
Firefighters were dispatched to 8000 County Road 189, owned and occupied by Reuben D. and Sarah H. Miller, after a resident of nearby County Road 192 reported the fire at 6:09 p.m.
Prairie Township Fire Chief Reuben Miller responded straight from home. Holmes County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Summers, also a member of the fire department, responded from where he was patrolling just north of Holmesville.
They arrived at 6:13 p.m., followed two minutes later by an engine from Prairie Township, said the chief, who is no relation to the owner of the property.
On arrival, the 24-by-32-foot wooden barn was fully engulfed in flames, and the horsed trapped inside were not only beyond rescue but were likely already dead, Miller said.
"I was concerned right away with exposure. The siding was already melting off the house (located only about 12 feet away)," said Miller, who added he immediately related to other responders the need to protect the exposure.
And, while he entered the home to ensure the fire had not made its way into the walls, Summers walked the perimeter to check for any nearby propane tanks.
Using water from the engine and others from South Central Fire District and Holmes Fire District No. 1, which arrived shortly thereafter, Chief Miller said the blaze was deemed under control at 6:38 p.m.
Crews remained on scene until 7:29 p.m., said Miller, adding it is believed, after discussion with the property owner, the fire originated in a bag of ashes from the home's wood stove, which had been placed inside the barn earlier that day.
The ashes were thought to be cold, according to Miller, who warns that ashes can remain hot for several days. He reminds all residents of the need to properly dispose of ashes -- in metal containers, soaked with water and well away from any structure.
"Right away, he realized," Miller said, noting it's not the first time this season local firefighters have responded to a fire caused by hot ash.
In the end, he said, "We were very fortunate it was not a bigger barn. Our greatest concern was to protect the house and garage. Everybody did a great job."
Despite "quite a bit of wind," he said, "we really had a good knock down."
Miller, who hopped on a line to mount an exterior attack even before he could step into his turnout gear, said local fire service shows "people come out to help."
Of Summers, who responded from patrol, he said, "That was pretty awesome. He went direct to the scene. He was at work, and just happened to be in the area, which was very helpful."
The quick response by all, he said, was critical in keeping the fire from spreading to the house. "A couple more minutes and it would have gone in."
"In the county, I think we've got a good relationship (with other fire departments and law enforcement)," he said, adding, "We're here for each other. We know each other, and they're not afraid to step in.
"It's the same if it were the other way around. I'd step in to help (law enforcement). We work together as a brotherhood," Miller said.
Summers, who joined the sheriff's office just about a year ago, said he was watching traffic just north of Holmesville when he heard the tones go off.
"Unfortunately, (Prairie Township) was only able to respond with two firefighters (other than Miller and Summers). I'm glad I was where I was," he said.
"I went out there because I know with (the fire department's) manpower the way it is, they need all the help they can get ... and quick," said Summers, who is one of several deputies and corrections officers who also are members of area fire departments.
"I think that says a lot for the guys on (the sheriff's office). It shows they care about the community we live and work in. It shows a lot of pride in what we do," said Summers, who said he "didn't have any problem stepping in."
"It's hard handling a fully charged hose, it can beat you up if you're not careful," Summers said.
Holmes County Sheriff Timothy W. Zimmerly said he employs several who are emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters.
"If they're on duty and close, obviously, we're public servants and we should try to assist where we can," he said, adding, "If we have a crash on the road, (the fire department) comes out and directs traffic and helps us.
"It's all about helping people in any way we can help them. It's just part of the job," said Zimmerly, who gave Summers props for responding. "I commend him for stepping in and assisting the fire department in the way he did. He did a good job."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.