MOUNT GILEAD — Two tornadoes touched down in Morrow County Monday, June 13 before midnight. The Mount Gilead Fire Department was quickly called into action.
Firefighter/EMT Connor McKirgan was responding to his own emergency at home.
“I had a 26” gas line rupture in my yard at [Township Rd.] 145 and [County Rd.] 30. It was shooting natural gas like 30 feet in the air,” McKirgan said.
The department had to evacute people in a one mile radius.
Firefighter/EMT Nathan Kidwell had a harrowing drive through the storm trying to gather other fire department personnel.
“There were a lot of trees down and lines down,” said Firefighter Alexis McCoy.
The fire department used their vehicles to bar hazardous or blocked roads. They were assisted by the Cardington Fire Department.
“There were a handful of calls I went to for roofs missing. Roofs were actually ripped off people’s houses. We had two or three houses that trees fell in through the attics of houses and houses had decks smashed,” McKirgan said. “For those homes our calls were to make sure residents were out and safe, to make sure nobody was trapped inside. We help them the best we can and point them in the right direction. Our primary focus was to make sure people weren’t trapped.”
The fire department also helped evacuate 32 people from Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground. Tent camper had their tents entirely smashed. Fire department personnel first took them to the fire department and then the Mount Gilead high school auxiliary gym was opened to evacuees.
“EMA came down here and met with the chief as well as the chief of police and the mayor. They contacted the Red Cross, which brought water, blankets, and snacks,” McKirgan noted. “The department was basically the first emergency shelter until the auxiliary gym got opened up as the shelter.”
Fire Chief Chad Swank said the department responded to 19 call that first night including a structure fire they provided assistance to the Fredericktown Fire Department, people trapped in a car, medical calls, and a transformer fire. They received the first call at 11:18 p.m.
McCoy said in the aftermath they were helping people as a result of the power outages, fire alarms and electrical transformer fires. They can’t extinguish transformer fires but they collected the pole numbers to relay them to the electrical company.
“We had one we were at for four hours on Tuesday night,” McKirgan said of the transformers. Ohio Edison wasn’t able to get to that one until the next day. They monitored the fire to make sure if any lines came down, they could report it. “You can’t put water on an electric fire,” he said, “That’s bad news.”
They did not repsond to any calls with injuries.
In the next couple of days they responded to people who were on oxygen and their tanks were running low, and the 9-1-1 center opened for free refills of oxygen tanks.
The fire department maintained staffing throughout the storm and aftermath.
Hospice of Morrow County donated pizzas to all village employees and Krogers provided water, Gatorade, lunch meat and pizza. Other anonymous community members dropped off food and Chief Swank said the department was very grateful for all of the donations.