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11-29-02: Fire destroys three businesses
The Daily Standard

    Firefighters from five Mercer County departments battled a barn fire early Thursday morning. The large structure, which housed three businesses, sustained extensive damage.
    The metal building, located at 2840 Mud Pike, was fully engulfed in flames when trucks and manpower from the Chattanooga, Rockford, Celina, Fort Recovery, Coldwater and St. Henry fire departments arrived on the scene around 6:30 a.m.
    The location was home to C&J Trucking, Sutter Construction and Kenšs Truck and Trailer Repair - businesses owned by Carl and Judy Sutter, Mike Sutter and Ken Gehle.
    Judy Sutter reportedly spotted flames at the east end of the barn when she got up to let the family dog out early Thanksgiving morning. The flames spread quickly and at least one explosion was heard before firefighters arrived.
    "We were able to extinguish the flames pretty quickly," Chattanooga Fire Chief Doug Brehm told The Daily Standard this morning. "All the departments worked together as a team and everyone did an excellent job."
    Family members quickly moved several semitrailers, two dump trucks and other pieces of heavy equipment parked close to the building. Amy Sutter reported none of the vehicles sustained damage.
    Mike Sutter, his brother-in-law Jeff Link and an unidentified firefighter worked feverishly, wrapping chains around five nearby fuel tanks and dragging them out of danger. This was accomplished without incident.
    Heavy, black smoke billowed from the building as new and used truck tires burned. The smoke could be seen for several miles as the morning dawned.
    "There were things like acetylene tanks, oil and other combustibles inside," Brehm said. "We did not have any problem with the flames spreading because the metal building contained the fire and heat."
    The fire chief was not sure what caused the explosion family members heard. He does not believe it was the acetylene tanks because no one reported hearing the distinctive noise he likens to an airplane taking off.
    A farm tractor and a dually truck parked inside the structure were destroyed, along with a large amount of tools. Family members were not able to salvage anything from the interior.
    Brehm pegged the loss at $100,000, adding the figure would have been much higher if flames had reached the parked vehicles. Sixty firefighters and eight fire department vehicles were on the scene approximately three hours.
    The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Brehm said the insurance company may send an investigator to the scene.


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