Dairy barn destroyed by fire

March 25, 1997


Staff Writer

Fire quickly engulfed a barn east of Hagerstown Monday afternoon, killing three calves and damaging farming equipment, fire officials said.

No one was hurt in the fire at 11219 Kieffer Funk Road, which is near White Hall Road about halfway between Hagerstown and Smithsburg.

Nathan Martin said he was working in a field at about 4:30 p.m. when the fire broke out. His children, who had just returned from school and were preparing to milk the cows, came running down from the barn, he said.

Martin ran to the barn to try and save equipment and about 40 calves that were inside.

"Five minutes later, fire was falling down through open doors," he said.

His wife, Rebecca Martin, said her son told her he heard something go "boom" while he was working in the barn. When she looked from her house next door, she said she was surprised at how quickly the fire had spread.


"When I saw it, flames were on all sides," she said. "I looked out and saw flames everywhere."

Rebecca Martin said the family has farmed the land for 23 years. The farm's owner is Richard Keplinger of Hagerstown, she said.

The Martins own the livestock and milking equipment.

The state fire marshal's office estimated the damage at $100,000.

Martin said she was happy her family was safe.

"I just wanted to make sure everybody was safe. That was the most important thing," she said. "I know this is a loss, but we still have the family. That means a lot."

Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Ron Jeter said firefighters brought the blaze under control in about 45 minutes. But he added that was as much a case of the fire running its course as it was of water dousing the flames.

"Once they go, they're in a hurry to go someplace," Jeter said of barn fires. "Barns are kind of funny. They burn so fast."

Jeter said firefighters spent much of their effort trying to make sure the blaze did not spread.

Martin said he saved all but three calves and the most valuable part of his milking equipment. His roughly 70 cows, which were outside at the time, also were saved, he said.

Martin estimated the calves were worth about $300 each and the barn will cost between $50,000 to $75,000 to rebuild.

Martin said he believes the milking machines escaped further damage because they were covered by two truckloads of dry wood shavings.

The wires that were destroyed are easily replaced, he said. In fact, he was preparing to milk the cows by the end of the night.

"We hope to have them milked by midnight," Martin said. "That's our goal."

Seventy-five firefighters from 11 units assisted. The fire marshal's office is investigating the blaze.

The Herald-Mail Articles