By NANCY ALLEN, TIM COX
and SHELLEY GRIESHOP
NEW KNOXVILLE — A second area firefighter died Wednesday
morning due to injuries he sustained in an explosion at Hoge
Lumber in New Knoxville, where local firefighters were putting
out a silor fire.
New Bremen firefighter John Garman was pronounced dead at 11:27
a.m. Wednesday at St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima. New
Bremen firefighter Kenneth Jutte died earlier at 9:40 a.m. at
Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys.
Firefighters were fighting a fire in a 71-foot-tall silo containing
sawdust when the explosion occurred. The top of the concrete
silo was blown off and chunks of concrete were thrown several
hundred feet away.
Jutte and New Bremen firefighter Scott Albers were on top of
the silo when it exploded and both were thrown to the ground.
Auglaize County Coroner Thomas Freytag this morning said Jutte’s
death was more likely caused from the explosion than the fall.
Garman, standing in the bucket of the aerial truck, fell to
the ground as debris struck the bucket, according to officials
at the scene.
Albers was listed in good condition this morning at St. Rita’s
Medical Center in Lima.
Nine others, which included seven firefighters and business
owner John Hoge and his son, Jack, were taken to area hospitals
with various injuries. New Knoxville firefighter Brent Lauth
was listed in fair condition at the Lima hospital this morning,
but no other names of the injured firefighters were released.
Firefighters were first dispatched to the scene around 7 a.m.
Wednesday on a report of a fire at the bottom of the silo. New
Knoxville volunteer firefighters were dispatched to the scene
first and then called the New Bremen department to use its aerial
ladder truck. As firefighters worked, the silo’s concrete
top blew-off about 9 a.m.
New Knoxville Fire Chief Scott Schroer this morning said the
firemen were trying to suppress dust in the silo to prevent
an explosion when the accident occurred. He said the firemen
were doing everything they should have been doing, and he feels
the explosion is linked to an “unknown element.”
Officials from the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office in
Colum-bus are investigating the explosion. The cause still remains
undetermined this morning, according to Sally Wagner, a spokeswoman
for the fire marshal.
Schroer, who has been with the New Knoxville department for
16 years, said he recalls being called to Hoge for a silo fire
just one other time.
A structural engineer will look at the silo as soon as possible
to determine whether it can be repaired or needs to be torn
down, Schroer said. The silo still was smoldering today and
10 New Knoxville firefighters remained on the scene.
On Wednesday afternoon the cement silo stood weakened by the
explosion and riddled with cracks. Water from the firefighters’
earlier attempts to douse the fire within, trickled down to
“We’re moving you back,” one of the firefighters
told Michael Hurick of the Auglaize County chapter of the American
Red Cross. “We think the silo’s going to fall.”
Hurick and several others quickly moved a table of refreshments,
which had been provided for those on the scene. More yellow
police tape was draped around the Hoge Lumber Company parking
lot as New Knoxville police officers ordered everyone but firefighters
to move across Ohio 29.
As of press time today, the silo remained intact.
Just across the highway, which was closed to traffic by mid-afternoon,
Margarie Kuck mowed her backyard, almost oblivious to the nearby
“I was in my bedroom when I heard the explosion,”
said the 87-year-old, as she turned off her lawn mower. “It
was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard.”
Kuck said she first went down to her basement fearing her old
furnace had exploded. Earlier she had heard the familiar sound
of sirens across the road and assumed the fire department was
converging on the lumber yard.
“There’s been fires in those silos before,”
Her husband, who died several years ago, was a former engineer
at Hoge and helped design the silos, she said. It’s not
uncommon for heat to build up inside one of the towering structures
filled with wood chips and sawdust, he had told her many times
Next to Kuck’s home, flanked by the village park, Evangelical
Protestant Cemetery was heavily dotted with small, white flags.
The flags represented pieces of debris, mostly cement, that
landed some 200 yards or more from the silo that exploded.
Inside the office of the Hoge Lumber Company, a secretary worked
tirelessly answering the telephone. Calls from the curious,
the media and family and friends of the business streamed in
all day, she said.
“Sorry, no one is here to comment,” she said politely
to one caller as she hung up the phone.
“Not everyone is as understanding. Everyone wants answers,”
she told The Daily Standard.
But there were no answers. No one yet knew why the silo started
on fire or why it exploded as the brave firefighters battled
the heat from above.
Schroer and several state fire marshals stood next to the police
tape that bounced wildly in the brisk wind. While waiting, they
held their own vigil of sorts for the victims many of them knew
And as they stared at the structure, smoke still rising from
its blown-off top, one unidentified firefighter took off his
hat and laid it on the ground.
“I just can’t believe this happened,” he said
as he shook his head and slowly found a spot on the ground to