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A longstanding dispute between Milton Township and Craig Beach may have caused a second home to be destroyed by a fire in the village on Tuesday.
Two side-by-side Afton Avenue homes were destroyed by a fire that broke out at about 10 a.m. Tuesday. People lived in both homes but no one was home at the time.
The homes are about a half mile from the Craig Beach Fire Department, but crews there never responded to the fire because of an agreement signed in 2007.
“The first fire engine took about 25 minutes before anybody showed up,” said neighborhood resident Lil Steffins. “And it was pretty well burning.”
Other residents said it took about 10 minutes for the fire to spread from one home to the other. Investigators are unsure how the fire started.
The agreement mandated that Milton Township fire officials must dispatch Craig Beach firefighters to respond to a fire. Unless they are called, they are unable to respond to fires, officials said.
“I really can’t comment on that,” said Milton Township Fire Chief Harold Maynard. “I’m sure that they’ve made some statements as to their availability, but I can’t really comment on that.”
Witnesses said the second home caught fire because crews failed to respond in time. Along with Milton Township, fire departments from Palmyra, Lordstown, Newton Township and Jackson Township responded to the fire.
The issue is expected to be discussed later Tuesday at a village council meeting.
Milton Township officials said they never dispatch Craig Beach because they believe they are not properly certified as a fire department. Craig Beach officials, however, said they do have certification.
The 2007 agreement was struck because financial problems in the village fire department.
Milton Township is contracted to handle EMS and fire emergencies in the village.
State records indicate the Craig Beach department is recognized as a nonprofit organization. They lost their fire department identification number after losing its contract with the village.
“Lives are going to be lost,” said neighborhood resident Mike Purnell. “Craig Beach Fire Department has got to be allowed to run in Craig Beach. This could have been a real tragedy.”