Working dairy barn destroyed in Pa.

February 21, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A century-old working dairy barn was destroyed in a midday fire off Mercersburg Road Thursday, three days after part of the roof collapsed from heavy snow and killed one of the farm's milking Holsteins.

A second cow that was injured in the roof collapse was so traumatized by the fire that she too had to be shot, said Lester Baer, who with his brother Ben has owned the farm for about 36 years.

The brothers were trying to repair the damage to the front entrance of the barn that collapsed from the snow when the fire started.


Sparks from the cutting torch they were using started the fire, said Nick Barbuzanes, chief of the Mercersburg, Montgomery, Warren and Peters Volunteer Fire Department.

The state fire marshal investigated the blaze, Barbuzanes said.

There was no damage estimate, but the fire destroyed a supply of round and square hay bales and a load of straw that were delivered Wednesday, Ben Baer said.

The barn had a stone foundation. Its upper two floors were wood frame topped with a metal roof.

There was little left but the foundation and piles of twisted metal from the roof.

Barbuzanes said the barn was already lost by the time the first units arrived on the scene.

"We did manage to save a mobile home and two equipment storage buildings next to the barn," he said.

He said a pond on the farm had an adequate supply of water to fight the fire, but crews couldn't get to it because of the deep snow.

Tankers from Franklin County and from Clear Spring, Maugansville, Williamsport and Halfway in Washington County were called in to haul water from the closest supply, a creek more than two miles away from the farm.

The Baers' farm is nearly a mile back a hilly dirt road off Pa. 416 (Mercersburg Road).

Ben Baer said the barn was insured, but wasn't sure if it would be enough to cover the damage. He said a new barn will be built to replace it.

The brothers milk a herd of 55 Holsteins and maintain a herd of 35 replacement heifers, Lester Baer said.

The remaining 53 milking cows will be trucked to a nearby working dairy farm owned by Curtis Johnson. Johnson has room for the Baers' herd and facilities to milk them separately from his own herd, Lester Baer said.

"He offered to help us," he said. "He's sending over a truck this afternoon to haul our cows over to his place."

"If there's one good thing to come out of all this, it's that farmers always stick together and help one another out when one of them is in trouble," Barbuzanes said.

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