On a Monday afternoon in January of 2005, at 2:53 Harlan Township firefighters were dispatched to a reported explosion at near 8480 Achterman Road just outside the small Village of Butlerville in Warren County Ohio.
Fire Chief Andy Mitten, first to arrive on the scene checked out the area but was unable to locate the source of the loud noise that neighbors had reported. The homeowner, who is a pilot, reported that the noise was very loud like a jet engine backfiring.
The department responded with two engines, a tanker and a squad and the vehicles parked on the narrow road. Firefighters continued to check the immediate area.
A Little Miami School bus had approached the area and stopped just south of Harlan’s engine. As Chief Mitten and Firefighter Aaron Yeary were discussing the situation with the homeowner they heard a loud bang, like a gunshot. As they turned toward where the sound came from, a projectile came fllying through the trees and whizzed past them, about 10 fee away.
Mitten immediately ordered all firefighters into their vehicles and called the Warren County Communications Center on his fire radio, “Request immediate police assistance as they were being shot at. We are under fire.”
Several surrounding police agencies responded.
At the same time, Assistant Chief Jamie Whitacre got on the school bus (which was in the line of fire) and directed the kids to get on the floor and for the driver to immediately get the bus in reverse and back it out of the area. Firefighters fled to their trucks and Mitten and Yeary got behind the EMS unit.
Police contacted the Little Miami School System and had them lock down the Harlan-Butlerville Elementary School, which is in the immediate area. After police arrived on the scene they found a man on Morrow-Woodville Road in his back yard shooting a black powder muzzle gun. He apparently did not realize how far those bullets will carry. The firefighters and the bus were over 1000 feet aways from the shooter.
He was arrested and charged with inducing panic and taken to the Warren County Jail.
This was a close call for the Harlan firefighters, especially Mitten and Yeary. As Chief Mitten said, when you respond on an incident, you just never know what may happen.