Farmers lose three heifers, 11,000 bales of hay
By Jaime Thomas
Area fire departments worked for two days, braving frigid temperatures, to completely put out a barn fire that started late Friday afternoon in Hartford.
The Hartford Volunteer Fire Department received multiple calls for a working structure fire at the Tyler family’s dairy farm at 188 Warren Road. They arrived to a blaze that was moving quickly through a large, combined heifer and hay barn but were able to stop it from spreading to the milking parlor.
“It was cooking good in a very short amount of time,” said Hartford Fire Chief Brian Jones. Soon crews from what he estimates to be at least 15 departments were on scene to battle the fire and rescue the calves that were housed in the burning structure.
Though the family initially thought they had lost many more, Jones said only three out of 75 heifers died.
“That is phenomenal in itself to get that many rescued. They were elated because we thought there was way more in there,” Jones said. He said a number of community members and farmers came to help round up the calves once they were out of the barn and move them to a friend’s farm in Argyle.
There still remained the problem, however, of temperatures dipping to 22 below zero hindering efforts to stop the blaze, 11,000 bales of hay fueling it and a herd of dairy cows that needed to be milked.
“A lot of people, farmers, neighbors, friends were all there, all pitching in to do something,” Jones said, and several community members, which he described as “handy people” were able to get a generator set up, so farmers were milking in the dairy barn by 10 that evening as the fire still blazed adjacent to it.
Meanwhile, trucks from more than a dozen area departments were coming and going to fight the fire in such bitter temperatures.
“It was just one cold, miserable night,” Jones said. “The weather was a real hindrance in this operation. The trucks were freezing, the hoses were freezing. To get water back to the fire scene was a problem.”
To relieve the firefighters Washington County also provided a bus for them to go into to thaw. They attacked the blaze mostly from the exterior, but several teams stood in the barn doorway to shoot water inside. Jones said trucks left the scene at about 3:30 a.m., came back at 7 and let the barn continue burning throughout Saturday.
During the day, community members and Niagara Mohawk were on scene to rewire the barn and get power by 10 p.m.
Jones said he and his crew spent Saturday night monitoring the smoldering barn, put another load of water on it at 4 a.m. Sunday and finished with the scene by 4 p.m. that day. He said he was still looking into a cause but deemed it accidental.
Despite the hindering cold, Jones was grateful to the area departments and local residents who responded.
“I’m just thankful for all the volunteer fire companies and the community support—it was tremendous,” he said.