Fire Destroys Lancaster County Turkey Barn

4/27/2013 7:00 AM

Wind-blown embers from a trash fire are being blamed for a fire that destroyed a Lancaster County poultry barn in a two-alarm blaze that left one firefighter injured.

Monday’s two-alarm fire gutted the 520-foot-long barn on the J. Paul Hursh farm, 185 W. Burkholder Drive in Clay Township. No animals were in the barn at the time.

Lincoln Fire Company Chief Randy Gockley said a trash fire lit by the property owners in a field behind the barn earlier in the day appeared to be the cause of the blaze.

The wood-frame barn, which was covered by steel siding, was quickly consumed by the flames, with smoke visible three miles away in Ephrata.

Damage was estimated at $200,000.

One firefighter was injured.

“I do not have a report on his type of injury, but it does not seem serious at this point,” Gockley said at the scene.

Hursh said he and his family had left one person to watch the trash fire while they worked nearby and it had pretty well burned out when they called on that person for assistance.

He speculates that an ember had probably blown through the louvers into the attic of the barn earlier and smoke just happened to begin emerging from the building in the short time the person was away.

“From the time we noticed the smoke until the fire burned through the building was less than 20 minutes,” he said.

Hurst said the barn, which was about 39 years old, had been used recently to house a single flock of turkeys for the holiday season. The next flock had not been scheduled to arrive until July.

The farm’s chief source of income is a herd of 170 dairy cows, which are housed close to the turkey barn in the direction in which the fire was spreading, he said.

Firefighters and farmworkers alike concentrated their efforts in that direction, closing the curtains to the dairy to keep smoke away from the cows, which were getting nervous from the smell, and wetting the area down to prevent the fire from spreading there.

Gockley said that shortly after the first alarm was called at 12:36 p.m., he called in a second alarm to bring in more water tankers.

“The first alarm was for four stations and four tankers,” he said. “Due to the large amount of water we needed, the second alarm brought in four more tankers.”

Gockley said the fire could have been avoided.

“We urge people to absolutely pay attention to open-burning regulations when it’s windy like this,” he said. “The National Weather Service declared today as a high-hazard day for open burning. This is a classic example of what can happen.”

Hursh said that in addition to the swift action from firefighters, there was an overwhelming response from his neighbors and church, who were well on the way to having the scene cleaned up before nightfall.

“Ten to a dozen or so neighbors were there again the next morning,” he said.

Hursh is not sure yet whether the turkey barn will be rebuilt.

“We may rebuild a poultry house of some sort,” he said. “We’re looking into it.”

Lancaster Newspapers contributed to this report.

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