Saturday, February 2nd, 2008
By Margie Wuebker
Area barn fires kill heifers and turkeys
  Area firefighters braved brisk winds, frigid cold and icy roads in recent days battling a pair of barn fires near Maria Stein and Fort Recovery.
Chickasaw Fire Department responded to a barn fire at 6:30 a.m. Friday after Elton Heitkamp, 7612 Lochtefeld Road, Maria Stein, spotted flames coming from the front of his 30-by-40-foot building housing 25 heifers. All the animals perished.
Given the treacherous state of ice-covered roadways, Fire Chief Mark Seitz requested salt trucks to make the trip safer for not only his men but for those coming from St. Henry and New Bremen on mutual aid runs. The Mercer County Highway Department responded.
Flames were shooting from the front of the building as firefighters arrived and picked their way across the ice-covered barnyard. Seitz assigned more manpower to the hose lines as a safety precaution.
"The guys did a great job getting the fire under control and keeping it from spreading to nearby buildings," Seitz said. "Approximately 25 percent of the building sustained heavy damage but the remainder was saved."
Initially, the fire chief thought a tank shuttle would be needed to bring water from an area pond. However, he soon determined there was enough water on the responding trucks to extinguish flames.
Although the exact cause has not been determined, Seitz believes the fire originated in a heating unit or electrical wiring near the front of the building. No dollar loss has been determined as yet but Heitkamp reportedly has insurance.
Seven trucks and nearly 40 firefighters responded with the final unit clearing the scene around 8 a.m.
Area fire departments also braved the elements early Wednesday morning and kept a blaze in a starter turkey house from spreading to adjacent poultry barns. The occupants - 5,900 2-week-old poults - perished.
Aaron Bergman, a passerby en route to work, spotted sparks coming from the south end of the 40-by-250-foot barn shortly before 4 a.m. and alerted owner Ron Jones, 1775 Fort Recovery-Minster Road.
"The barn was standing when the first truck arrived on the scene, but it was down by the time other vehicles arrived," Southwest Mercer Fire District Chief Kim Day told The Daily Standard. "The only thing we could do was keep the fire from spreading."
Coldwater and St. Henry firefighters responded on mutual aid runs, reporting they could see a glow in the sky from a distance.
Winds in the 50-mile-per-hour range buffeted the area but ended up being beneficial to firefighting efforts in at least one regard.
"The starter house stood on the west side and the stiff wind blew flames over and around the other barns," Day said. "If the wind had been lighter it could have turned out much differently. We had enough other problems as it was."
With temperatures in the single digits and a windchill hovering around minus 20 degrees, water froze as it hit the ground, buildings, vehicles and even firefighters. Day commented that many of the 49 firefighters at the scene resembled tall icicles.
Additionally, the tanker shuttle had to be rerouted after equipment froze at an area fill site. The new route took vehicles to and from the Southwest firehouse to fill up.
Day suspects metal siding blew off and connected with wiring at the south end of the building. Firefighters reportedly found unburned siding near the scene indicating it came off prior to the fire.   
He termed the building a complete loss. Jones reportedly has insurance on the building, which housed poults owned by Cooper Farms.
Manpower and nine vehicles remained on the scene approximately three hours.
Chickasaw also responded to an early Wednesday morning fire at the Maria Stein-area home of Walter Braun, 7537 Fort Recovery-Minster Road. An electrical outlet apparently overheated and the occupants awakened to find the house filled with smoke.
Seitz said the fire apparently burned itself out before Chickasaw, St. Henry and Osgood fire departments arrived. The homeowner was backing the family car from the garage as seven trucks and 38 firefighters showed up with emergency lights flashing.
The chief requested mutual aid after receiving the 12:33 a.m. call given reports of a structure fire and the extremely cold and gusty wind. One truck and several men remained on the scene for two hours to make sure there were no problems while the rest returned to their respective stations.
The area around the outlet was charred and some smoke damage was noted. Seitz said the home owner has insurance.
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