Monday, April 21st, 2008
Historic barn goes up in flames
By Shelley Grieshop
One of the oldest and largest bank barns in Mercer County went up in flames early Sunday morning along state Route 274, west of Chickasaw.
All but one of the 160 steers kept in the barn were led to safety by the owner, his relatives and dozens of firefighters from the nine area departments that battled the blaze. The steer that perished likely died from an injured leg and smoke inhalation, barn owner Ryan Schwieterman said.
Also lost in the fire were various pieces of farm equipment. A damage estimate was not available at press time. Chickasaw Fire Chief Mark Seitz said the cause of the fire will likely remain undetermined.
The 48-by-80-foot barn and its slate roof stood approximately 70 feet tall and towered over the home and other nearby buildings on the farm. The structure was built in 1921 on the same spot that a previous barn - believed to have been built in the 1800s, Schwieterman said - was destroyed by fire the year before.
Firefighters were called out about 1:15 a.m. Sunday and could see the flames from more than 11/2 miles away, Seitz said. The firefighters focus after arriving was to save several nearby structures from the flames and heat.
An attached milking parlor was the only other structure destroyed with the barn.
"The barn was fully engulfed and ready to collapse when we got there," Seitz said. "We did everything we could possibly do."
Seitz said water was brought to the site by tanker trucks and via a pond at St. Charles Center in Carthagena.
Nearly 100 firefighters and tanker trucks from Chickasaw, St. Henry, Burkettsville, Coldwater, Montezuma, Minster, New Bremen, Osgood and North Star fought the fire for nearly six hours before heading back to station about 7 a.m.
"We went back to the farm a couple times after that to check for hot spots," Seitz said.
The original barn was built by Schwieterman's grandfather's aunt and uncle and has been a part of his family's heritage for more than 100 years, he said.
"This has been difficult for everybody," Schwieterman said. "My grandfather was speechless when he heard."