A passerby who spotted the early stages of a barn fire on Starr Road in Pavilion on Tuesday night might have helped save 37 head of cattle.
Two sons of the farm owner were able to get the cattle out of the barn before it was engulfed in an inferno that consumed the entire structure.
Pavilion Fire Chief Paul Dougherty said the main structure of the barn was fully ablaze by the time the first firefighters arrived on scene just minutes after the initial call at 8:18 p.m.
The heat was so intense it was already starting to melt the vinyl siding on a house at least 100 yards away from the barn.
The command post for the fire, situated on a mowed grass area across the road from the fire, had to be moved back twice because of intense heat.
"With that much fire load going, the wood and combustibles all burning at once -- plus the the fact was a metal-sided building, which contains the heat until it burns through, and then once it does burn through it all comes out at once – it throws a lot of radiant," Dougherty said.
The barn was on the Kelkenberg Farm and Dougherty said the owners were "very lucky" the fire was discovered when it was. That portion of Starr Road, Dougherty noted, is lightly traveled in the late evening.
There is no public water in that part of Pavilion (as is the case with most of the Pavilion Fire District) and because of the low precipitation totals over the past year, the two closest water sources didn't have sufficient water to help fill tankers to fight the fire.
Firefighters had to fall back on slightly more distant secondary water supplies, but Dougherty said that since the fire spread so quickly after its intial discovery, even a good water supply wouldn't have helped save the structure.
Fire companies from three counties responded to the fire.
There was no saving the barn, Doughety said.
"At that point our big concern was keeping primary power lines cool so they didn’t drop in the road because that would have been dangerous for everybody on both sides, and then protecting the house," Dougherty said.
At 12:20 a.m., firefighters are still on scene. No cause of the fire has been released. The Sheriff's Office will likely release an initial report on the fire by the morning and we'll update this story with any additional information or details when they become available.
UPDATE 10:09 a.m., Wednesday: The cause of the fire has not been determined and remains under investigation, the Sheriff's Office said today. Investigators do not believe there was any foul play. The structure is described as four connected wood-framed barns and buildings. The main barn was fully engulfed in flames when the first units arrived on scene. Mutual aid companies included Le Roy, Stafford, Bethany, Alexander, Warsaw, York, Leister, among others. The initial 9-1-1 call was made by Craig Green. According to a source, Dave Tillotson was also a first witness and helped with rescuing the cows.