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Fire burns barn in Pa.

July 21, 1999

Barn fireBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: DON AINES / staff photographer




ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Thanks to friends and neighbors, Dale Burkholder's 60 Holsteins were quickly resettled into new quarters Wednesday evening after fire destroyed his barn in Peters Township.

The fire was caused by tractor exhaust that ignited hay in the barn's loft, according to Mercersburg, Montgomery, Peters and Warren Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Nick Barbuzanes. He said the fire at 2165 McDowell Road was called in at about 4:45 p.m. and the barn was engulfed in flames when the first units arrived.

"We were welding in there and backed the tractor in to hook it to the generator" that ran the welder, said Dale Burkholder's brother Josh. He said the heat from the tractor's exhaust stack must have gone through the loft floorboards and set the hay on fire.

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He said his brother had gone to an uncle's farm nearby to begin milking his herd.

Burkholder said they were able to get the livestock out of the barn, although one cow may have to be destroyed because it suffered a leg injury when it fell. He said a calf may have also died in the fire.

Barn fireIn a pasture next to the barn, men were herding the spooked cows into a line of livestock trailers pulled by neighbors' pickup trucks.

"They were out in the pasture. There was probably 25 or 30 fellows out there" rounding the cows up, said Amos Bricker of Chambersburg, whose farm is about 12 miles away. He and the other men made a corral out of fence gates and then funneled the cows into the trailers that pulled up one by one.

The barn collapsed into a heap of charred timbers, tin roofing and smoldering hay. A ladder truck poured water onto the smoking ruin while other firefighters played hoses onto the fire from the barn's perimeter.

The barn and milking parlor were a total loss. Josh Burkholder said it could be a couple of months before his brother is back in operation at the farm.

Barbuzanes said water to fight the fire was being drawn from a nearby pond, "but it's getting awfully low." Water laced with cow waste rolled off the cement pad of the barn.

Front-end loaders were brought in to spread out the hay and debris so it could be more easily doused.

"It's going to be a long night," Barbuzanes said at about 7:30 p.m. Firefighters were still on the scene hours later cleaning up.

Barbuzanes estimated there were more than 50 firefighters at the scene. In addition to units from his company, firefighters from Marion, St. Thomas, Greencastle and Letterkenny Army Depot assisted at the scene.

Josh Burkholder had no dollar estimate on the damage.

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