By Margie Wuebker
ST. HENRY -- Two outbuildings were destroyed by fire Wednesday afternoon along Lange Road.
However, the 10 fire departments responding to the scene were able to keep a 1,000-gallon propane tank inside one of the buildings from exploding.
St. Henry Fire Department was alerted around 12:45 p.m. after a neighbor spotted smoke coming from the property of Mark Evers, 3510 Lange Road.
Chief Ron Ontrop quickly requested mutual aid after learning about the possibility of a propane explosion. Brisk winds and a one-half mile lane represented additional challenges.
St. Henry firefighters laid 2,200 feet of supply hose snaking from drop tanks at the edge of the road to the burning buildings. Tanker trucks from St. Henry as well as Burkettsville, Coldwater, Minster, New Bremen, North Star, Montezuma, Chickasaw, Osgood and the Southwestern Fire District in Fort Recovery quickly established a water relay.
Water needed to extinguish the blaze and cool the propane tank came from Chris Brackman's pond along Burkettsville-St. Henry Road and Aaron Bergman's pond situated near the intersection of Township Line and Lange roads.
"Our tanker brought in five loads each containing 4,000 gallons of water," Ontrop told The Daily Standard. "Altogether, the departments probably dropped 100,000 gallons."
It reportedly takes one gallon of water to fill each foot of the 5-inch-diameter hose. The sound of pumps could be heard propelling the liquid to where it was needed.
At least one fire truck and an ambulance had to drive through nearby farm fields in order to reach the scene due to a deep ditch in front of the Evers property. A section of the driveway closest to the buildings was blocked by the large St. Henry engine that arrived first.
Evers' father, Florence, had been working on a lawnmower in the frame building and a spark apparently ignited the blaze after he left for lunch, Ontrop said. Flames then swept to a concrete block building containing bales of dry corn fodder.
Two lawnmowers plus one piece of farm machinery were among the larger items destroyed in the blaze. There is no damage estimate as yet but the property owner reportedly has insurance.
Nearly 40 firefighters and 16 trucks remained on the scene approximately four hours.
Another fire call came in shortly before 5 p.m. as St. Henry firefighters began to retrieve hose from the driveway.
Two St. Henry trucks and a Chickasaw truck, which was in the process of leaving the first scene, headed to the home of Jerry Bertke, 162 W. Washington St., St. Henry, to battle a blaze in an outdoor storage building.
The cause of the blaze, which destroyed the building as well as a riding mower, a push mower and a rototiller, has not been determined.
The 15 firefighters remained on the scene approximately 45 minutes. The Chickasaw crew then returned to quarters while members of the St. Henry department returned to the Evers farm to collect the rest of their hose.