COLLINS — Whitley County Sheriff Marc Gatton’s son learned a valuable lesson last week — emergencies can happen in a split second.
Max Gatton, a freshman at Churubusco High School, was in his backyard playing fetch with his dog last Wednesday, just like any other day.
He went in the house for a moment, and when he came back out, smoke poured from his neighbor’s outbuilding.
He alerted his mom, Kay, who called 911, while he ran to the neighbors.
One man was still inside the building when the fire started, and neighbors saw him exit out of the back of the building as emergency crews arrived.
Witnesses said they believed the man was welding. It is unclear for sure if that’s what started the fire, but Smith Township Fire Chief Kris Bair said he believes the fire is accidental.
“He was checked out by the medics and refused treatment,” Bair said.
The man reportedly had a burn on his arm. Some reported to Bair that he may have been passed out inside the burning building.
The fire caused a power line to break, leaving it snapping and cracking on the ground near the barn. Firefighters had to stay back from the building for about 45 minutes while waiting for representatives from the electric company to arrive and turn off the power; however, the fire quickly overtook the building.
The building was formerly used for onion storage, and several people on scene said the outer walls were insulated with onion skins that were decades old, which likely added fuel to the fire.
The fire in the concrete building was noted as “under control” within 45 minutes. Fire crews spent a couple more hours extinguishing the flames. Inside the building were some vehicles and several tires, which is likely what created the dark, black smoke, Bair said.
One fireman who works in Auburn said he could see smoke from Auburn.
More photos are posted on the IN|Whitley County Facebook page.