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Neighbors lend a hand in cleanup after barn fire

August 26, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Big fires often draw big crowds, but those who showed up at the farm of Amos Bricker Monday came not to gawk, but to lend a hand.

"We have a lot of faithful friends here," Bricker said as neighbors helped with the cleanup after the fire that destroyed the 81-year-old barn late Saturday. There is an old saying that many hands make light work and, by mid-afternoon, the charred rubble had been removed down to the concrete foundation.

Several large trucks along the lane leading to the farm were filled with tin roofing and other debris, and men were shoveling up what was left inside the foundation. Skid loaders and other heavy equipment were being used to scoop up heavier debris.

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The fire at 887 Edenville-Cheesetown Road in St. Thomas Township, Pa., was called in at 11:18 p.m. Saturday, according to the St. Thomas Volunteer Fire Co. report. Eighteen fire companies responded to the scene and units were there almost seven hours, the report stated.

Bricker, of 5199 Bricker Road, said his son Melvin called him about the fire Saturday night and told him "the whole roof was aglow."

Despite the fire having occurred more than 36 hours before, there were still some smoldering piles of hay near the barn Monday afternoon.

State Police Fire Marshal Stanford Sydnor was at the scene Monday afternoon. He said a fire marshal from Carlisle, Pa., had inspected the scene over the weekend, but the cause was still under investigation. At this point, Sydnor said the fire was not considered suspicious.

Although Bricker owns the farm, the barn, land and other outbuildings are being rented by Arlin Martin, who lives nearby on Bony Lane. He said the fire destroyed some milking machinery and a discbine, but all the dairy cows inside the barn were saved.

"That end of the barn is where it started," Martin said, pointing to the corner nearest the farmhouse. He said that is where the electrical line came into the building.

Dwaine Brechbill said his family used to own the farm and the barn had burned down twice before, the last time in 1922. He said lightning was to blame for those fires.

Dave Hufcut moved to a nearby farm on the St. Thomas-Edenville Road about three years ago and his daughter woke him up to alert him to the fire. "My first initial thought was that it was my barn," he said.

A fire truck came down his lane and he rode it over to the Bricker farm. Although fire engulfed the barn, the former firefighter went inside to help get the cows out.

"I just grabbed a broom and started beating on them," he said. Hufcut said Bricker's son had already released the animals from their stalls.

"Everything was just dropping. The ceiling was coming down," Hufcut said.

"He was our hero," Martin said.

"Instincts take over sometimes," Hufcut said.

Martin said his herd of more than 40 head was taken to a farm about three miles away. Bricker said it will take at least two months to rebuild the barn.

Farmers and neighbors began gathering at the farm Monday morning, accompanied by wives and children, and they had to be fed.

"I forget how many we fed. It was over 100," said Sharon Byers, who was among those serving up a mid-morning snack and then lunch in another of the farm's outbuildings. Byers said everyone brought something to share with their neighbors

"It really is a blessing," Martin said when asked about all those who pitched in.

"We're part of a Christian brotherhood that believes in helping each other," said Martin. "When someone has a need, they recognize that and everyone shows up to help."

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