|08-19-03: 2,000 pigs die in area barn fire
|By MARGIE WUEBKER
Nearly 2,000 feeder pigs perished Monday night when fire raced through
a Washington Township swine operation.
Southwest Mercer Fire District Chief Kim Day summoned mutual aid in
fighting the 6:50 p.m. blaze at the 37- by 480-foot barn owned by former Mercer County
resident Rick Kremer of Ansonia. The property is situated at 1001 Ohio 29, west of Celina.
Southwest firefighters were assisted at the scene by manpower and
trucks from Celina, Coldwater and Chattanooga. Some 60 personnel and 11 vehicles
"We could see a glow as soon as we rolled out of Fort
Recovery," Day said. "The Chatt guys could see it from as far as Ohio
The fire chief described the blaze as a difficult one to fight given
the rooms and corridors created when the structure was converted from poultry to swine
purposes in the late 1990s.
Kremer has raised pigs at the location since December 1998. While he
owns the building, the pigs are the property of Mercer Landmark.
Firefighters were able to save a storage area at the west end of the
building. A wall on the east side remained standing this morning as smoke wafted from the
debris. The fire did not spread to a nearby poultry barn that is home to 80,000 chickens.
"We have to thank the good Lord for everything that went right in
the wake of this terrible disaster," Kremer told The Daily Standard this morning.
"It could have been worse if not for the firemen and people who responded with
livestock trailers to move the surviving pigs."
Henry Timmerman Excavating was contacted when firefighters needed help
tearing off metal siding to gain access to the building. Timmerman was heading down U.S.
127 with the needed equipment on a flatbed at the time. He quickly took a detour.
Firefighters kept hosing down an 18,000-gallon propane tank at
the side of the building. Thankfully, there was no explosion and no one was injured.
The 77,000 gallons of water needed to fight the blaze came from a
nearby pond. Tankers traveled less than half a mile from the pond to portable tanks
waiting at the Kremer property.
Once the blaze was contained, firefighters and a legion of neighbors
and friends began rescuing 1,300-1,500 squealing pigs from the east side of the building.
The animals, weighing between 12 and 40 pounds, were loaded onto a fleet of livestock
trailers that converged on the scene.
"Guys watched the building as pigs were being rescued," Day
said. "We had to blow the air horn once to get everyone out and then reassessed the
situation before taking out another load."
A procession of pickup trucks and trailers made the three-mile trip to
the home of Chad and Roger Knapke, where a large hog barn had been completed in recent
days. The animals received food and water in short order.
"If the pigs had been bigger, we might have lost them all,"
Kremer said. "The little guys are lower to the floor and available oxygen."
People at the scene also removed a tractor and other equipment from the
scene. Others showed up toting baskets of food and jugs of cold water for firefighters who
remained on the scene approximately six hours. Kremer expressed gratitude to all those
responding to the emergency, adding their kindness and assistance will never be forgotten.
The Kremers were not home at the time. Family members tracked them down
at the Darke County Fair, where they were showing hogs.
"We could see the glow all the way from Coldwater," Kremer
said. "I knew the barn was pretty well gone at that point. I still can't believe the
number of people who responded."
Day said the blaze started in the center of the building, judging from
the burn pattern. However, the cause has not been determined as yet.
The cost to the building and contents, excluding the pigs, is estimated
at $500,000. Day did not have information regarding the value of the dead animals. Kremer
has insurance to cover much of the loss.
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