How 80,000 gallons of water and multiple fire crews saved the rest of Dussel Farm

The April 2 fire at Dussel Farm and Feed Store. Photo by Donna Craver-Dean

Firefighters could not determine the cause of an April 2 fire that consumed the Dussel Farm barn and took over 11 hours and 80,000 gallons of water to extinguish. 

“I would be surprised, because of the large amount of damage, if they ever really knew” the cause of the blaze, said Brimfield Fire Chief Craig Mullaly during a briefing April 6 with township trustees. “You can tell from a video I have early on that it looks like it started in the northeast corner of the barn, but who knows?”

Mullaly said about 10 fire departments responded to the fire, which took about eight hours to put out before it rekindled around midnight. Firefighters put in another three hours putting that out. Mullaly said a “rekindle” is not unusual in situations such as the one they faced.

No people or animals were injured during the fire, and only barn cats lived in the structure, he said. Determining the cause of the blaze will be up to the Dussel’s insurance adjuster, he said.

Mutual aid was critical, especially since there are no hydrants in the area and Brimfield’s tanker truck only holds 1,000 gallons.

Plus, “the fire was so hot you can’t get close to something like that,” Mullaly said.

Brimfield Fire Department relied on a coordinated multi-department effort to get sufficient water in what Mullaly termed “dump tanks.” Three 3,000-gallon tankers from other departments ferried loads back and forth to refill the tanks, he said, adding that the firefighters never ran out of water.

“Once you get that going, it’s a big bonfire at that point. You protect the houses and the feed store, which we did, and put the fire out, but it takes a lengthy amount of time,” he told the trustees. “We’re not putting water on the fire. We’re cooling the house and the feed store, to save that.”

All the equipment stored in the barn is lost, as is a classic bus that countless visitors enjoyed, he said. Siding on the house melted as well. Trustee Nic Coia said it is too early to establish a damage estimate.

Brimfield Fire Department lost some hose, a nozzle, and one township’s truck ran into another township’s truck, causing minor damage, Mullaly said.

Mullaly, who was out of town during the incident, congratulated Assistant Chief Ron Goodspeed for his leadership, especially since it was the first time he had been placed in such a situation.

Mullaly thanked all the responding departments for their assistance, with a special shout out to  the Suffield Fire Department for cleaning Brimfield’s equipment after the fire.

Tallmadge Fire Department did not respond to the incident, having been specially designated to handle routine calls that might come in while the incident was ongoing.

Former Brimfield Trustee and Fiscal Officer Charles Sprague, whose family owned the property in the 1920s, said at one time the barn was the second biggest in Portage County.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.