Fire at fairgrounds second in year

Most of the equine occupants returned Friday morning to the Washington County Fairgrounds’ race horse barn. Around a dozen horses had to be evacuated from the barn late Thursday night as the Marietta Fire Department worked to put out a small fire inside.

The incident marked the second barn fire in less than a year at the fairgrounds. In April, the fair board’s rabbit and poultry barn burned to the ground, destroying thousands of dollars worth of property kept inside by vendors of the River City Farmers Market.

Thursday’s fire was confined to a small space and did little damage, said Capt. Jack Hansis of the Marietta Fire Department.

“Two stalls is what the fire was confined to,” he said.

Marietta Fire Department Fire Inspector Richard Stewart was on scene into the morning Friday.

However, no determinations have been made about the cause or origin, said Hansis.

“It’s open to further investigation,” he said, but added that he did not know whether the State Fire Marshal’s Office would be called.

Word of mouth about the fire spread quickly to dozens of people who rent stalls at the barn. Many began arriving at the fairgrounds to check on or move their horses Thursday shortly after the fire department itself got the call at 11:20 p.m.

Williamstown resident Hillary Dennison, 20, who helps look after around eight horses at the barn, was there by 11:30 p.m., working to move horses and keep them calm.

“The lady we share stalls with called and said we need to get here,” she said.

The building was quite smoky, which had spooked the horses, she said.

Williamstown resident Kim Wasmer said she moved her horses to one of the other horse barns at the fairgrounds.

“There aren’t enough spaces over there for all of them,” she noted.

Luckily, not all of the approximately 18 horses in the barn had to be evacuated, said Fred Boyd, president of the Washington County Fair Board.

“The horses in the front of the bar, they left those in there,” he said.

Boyd, who also had a horse in the barn, said he temporarily moved his horse to a farm in Barlow.

There was still no electricity in the barn Friday, as it had been shut off by American Electric Power while the investigation continued.

However, the electricity merely controls lights in the building and it was otherwise safe to move horses back in Friday, said Boyd.

He said he did not know the estimated cost of the damages. But with the possibility of yet another cause-undetermined fire at a fairground barn, Boyd said the fair board might look into having the buildings inspected.

“You’ve got a situation that all those barns down there, they’ve been there for a long time. The electrical is like any place. It needs to be inspected. I would believe based on two fires that the fair board is going to be looking more and more toward if we have any electrical problems,” he said.

The issue remains that such inspections cost money-money that the is sparse for the fair board, said Boyd.

“We don’t have the money to upgrade them,” he added.

Though the fair board owns the buildings, they are insured through the Washington County Commissioners.

Currently there is nothing in the 2014 budget alloted for improvements or inspections at the fairgrounds, said Washington County Commissioner Ron Feathers.

“It could be worth having a discussion with the fair board,” he added.

Darla Miller, Washington County director of human resources and safety loss control, said she has already submitted the fire to the County Risk Sharing Authority of Ohio (CORSA), the insurer.

It is possible the damages will not meet the $2,500 deductible on the building, she said.

However, it will not be certain until a representative from CORSA inspects the building, likely sometime next week, she said.