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Rabbit Run Farm house to burn

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Three months after Vernay Laboratories purchased Rabbit Run Farm on Dayton Street, the company has decided to raze the eight-room farmhouse on the property. The controlled burn is scheduled for Saturday, July 17, and will be performed as a training operation for the Miami Township Fire-Rescue, with an open invitation to Sugarcreek Township and Cedarville departments.

In an interview on Monday, Vernay President Ed Urquhart stated that the company was concerned about the safety issues that a vacant building poses to the community and felt it was better to take it down than let it fall apart. Vernay purchased the seven-acre property from Suzanne Patterson in February, after Home, Inc. passed on an option to buy it for affordable housing last winter. Vernay obtained the property to continue the extended remediation of toxic contaminants that have been found in the aquifer below Rabbit Run Farm, which sits directly east of its former Dayton Street production plant.

Rabbit Run is one of the last working farms in the village. The west end of Dayton Street remained undeveloped until after 1855, when Antioch College was established, according to college archivist Scott Sanders. And the farmhouse and barn may have been built around the time that Pat Perry’s family home was built next door in 1875, she said this week. The structures were there in 1942 when Lester and Frances Sidenstick bought the then-11-acre farm, according to their daughter Esther Pierson. She remembers helping to raise and slaughter hogs and cattle in the barn while Frances operated HomeAcres Garden Center on the lot just to the north. Villager Al Schlueter bought the farm in 1973 and ran it as a vegetable and chicken farm with a fruit orchard, until Patterson, Laura Taylor and Connie Collett bought it in 1985. Patterson continued until this year to raise vegetables there for local consumption.

The fire department is scheduled to begin the controlled burn at 9:30 a.m., starting with a series of training exercises involving lighting and extinguishing small fires inside the house, according to Fire Chief Colin Altman. Altman expects that the entire structure will be burned down in the afternoon, and will likely take about two hours to complete. The department plans to burn just the residential home, and not the barn that sits behind it.

The fire department is scheduled to obtain a permit to burn from the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency of the Ohio EPA this week, Altman said. The department had asbestos and other potentially toxic materials such as plastics and carpeting removed from the building this month, and Altman perceives no other safety hazards that would impede the exercise. The event will create smoke in the area, but not more than the many other practice burns the fire department has engaged in over the past several years, including burning Antioch’s Norment Hall on East Whiteman Street and a home on the corner of Dayton and Stafford Streets.

On Tuesday the department notified the neighbors of the burn event. And there will be an area cordoned off for public viewing as well.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for training for our fire fighters,” Altman said, referring especially to the newer volunteers who have never trained with a house fire that can climb up to 1300–1400 degrees. “That’s why these things are so important to us,” he said.

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