The fire that leveled a barn southeast of Elmira Monday evening left $250,000 in damage and more than a hundred dead animals in its wake.
Columns of smoke were visible miles away from the farm on New Jerusalem Road, not far from the newly expanded parochial school on Scotch Line, around 7 p.m. July 26.
“I just happened to be driving by,” said Floradale fire chief Dennis Frey. “I was about two kilometres away when I noticed the smoke, and by the time I got there it was going pretty good – lots of flames and there was a lot of heat coming off of it.”
A farmhand was loading hay bales onto an elevator when the machinery stopped. When the man checked the equipment, he noticed a small fire and called police. Firefighters believe the blaze began when an overheated electrical cord got too close to the nearby hay bales.
Six trucks from the Conestogo and St. Jacobs fire stations responded, along with an extra tanker from Floradale.
“We started applying water to the fire as soon as we got to the scene,” said Woolwich fire chief Rick Pedersen. “But when a blaze is that big, sometimes you have to let it burn down and just make sure that it doesn’t spread any farther or catch any other buildings.”
Firefighters were on scene until midnight, while the tanker stayed for several more hours to make sure none of the smoldering parts flared up again.
Many animals and dozens of hay bales were lost along with the barn. Neighbours and passersby stopped and helped with the rescue of animals; about a dozen cows were hauled out from the barn.
“Some of the cattle were able to come out through the gate,” said Frey. “Some of the guys knocked down a wooden wall so that several more could be brought out. But there was just a lot of heat and a lot of flames.”
The owner of the property estimates that some 18 cows, 50 pigs, 100 chickens and 10 rabbits were killed.
Cleanup was well underway at the site by the following day.