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Shelterhouse fire sparked by high winds

A favorite destination of backpackers and horsemen along the Adventure Trail that runs through O’Bannon Woods State Park in western Harrison County was destroyed by fire New Year’s Eve.
Bob Sawtelle, manager of O’Bannon Woods, said the fire was spotted some time after 8 p.m. Dec. 31 by a resident who lives across the Ohio River in Meade County. That person notified the Meade County Sheriff’s Dept., which called the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept.
Sawtelle and Dwayne Sieg, property manager of the Harrison-Crawford State Forest, went to the scene. Sieg helped guide in firefighters from Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept., while Sawtelle searched for a hiker who had been at the shelter.
The hiker, who was not identified, was found unharmed. Sawtelle said the fire was accidental, that the hiker had built a fire in a nearby fire ring, but ‘extremely nasty winds’ that night displaced hot cinders that started the fire in some leaf litter near the shelter.
The shelterhouse, which overlooked the Ohio River, was built in the mid-1980s, Sawtelle said, as a staff project. The three-sided, 18-foot by 18-foot structure, which is used as a sleeping shelter, was built from red pine harvested on the property.
Two other similar structures exist on the property.
‘We plan to rebuild as soon as possible, probably with volunteers,’ Sawtelle said.