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Two Killed in Ohio Silo Explosion

October 1, 2003

NEW KNOXVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ An explosion inside a silo at a lumber company in western Ohio killed two firefighters and injured at least five others Wednesday, authorities said.

An unknown number of employees also were injured.

The explosion happened about two hours after firefighters were called about a fire in the concrete silo at Hoge Lumber Co.

New Bremen firefighter Kenneth Jutte was killed, said Auglaize County Coroner Dr. Thomas Freytag.

Jutte was one of two firefighters atop the 70-foot tall silo, Freytag said. A firefighter in an aerial bucket was thrown to the ground.

A second firefighter died at St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, said hospital spokeswoman Brenda Burgy. She did not know the firefighter’s name or department.

``It sounded like somebody had dropped a boulder or something on our home,″ said Nancy Buscher, 51, who lives a couple of houses away.

The blast blew off the top of the silo, hurling chunks of concrete across the road into a cemetery about 100 yards away.

Buscher, a nurse, said she helped treat two employees who were injured. One was cut on the back by flying concrete.

New Knoxville Fire Chief Scott Schroer did not know the extent of the other injuries. In total, 11 people were taken to hospitals, he said.

Two other firefighters were taken by helicopter to St. Rita’s.

Seven people were taken to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys, said hospital spokeswoman Carrie Widman. One was later flown to St. Rita’s, she said.

Schroer said firefighters were hosing down dust in the silo to avoid an explosion when it blew up.

``What we had here was a dust silo that feeds the boiler for the lumber company,″ he said. ``They’ve had fires in these before.″

Wallace Watt, 84, who lives next door to the lumber company, said smoke poured from the silo after the explosion.

``It was rolling out like a white cloud,″ he said.

Clark Froning, a co-owner of Hoge Lumber, said the silo was filled with wood shavings and sawdust. He would not talk about what caused the explosion.

The company’s buildings sit on the edge of New Knoxville, a village of about 900 people and 50 miles north of Dayton.

Fire departments from New Knoxville, New Bremen, Wapakoneta and St. Marys Township responded.

New Bremen fire Chief Bob Kuck said some other of his firefighters were hurt, but he did not know how badly.

The family-owned lumber company touts itself as the world’s largest maker of wood bowling lanes and has been in business since 1904. It also makes cabinetry and building supplies.

It recycles wood chips and other byproducts that are fed into its generator that supplies power to the plant and all of the village, which has about 900 residents.

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