A teenager burning trash on a concrete slab is believed to have started a fire at a farm south of New Haven on Wednesday evening, according to Washington Fire Chief Bill Halmich.
Firefighters from eight departments, including New Haven/Berger, Washington, Hermann, Beaufort/Leslie, Gerald, Owensville, Union and Boles responded to extinguish the massive blaze at 4269 Highway KK that claimed a sawmill, a vehicle and two barns, one of which housed 500 bales of hay on the property of Robert Bunge. The first call came in at 7:30 p.m.
Officials believe Bunge’s 17-year-old grandson was clearing space in an outbuilding to park his vehicle and was burning combustible waste outside.
“In conditions like these a small fire can get out of hand quickly,” said Halmich, referring to dry conditions and the heat wave currently being experienced in Franklin County.
Aside from extreme conditions, firefighters faced other obstacles in controlling the flames, said Halmich.
“It was basically a structure fire and brush fire together,” he said. “There were no hydrants available so water had to be shuttled from a nearby lake.”
Washington Deputy Fire Chief Tim Frankenburg said firefighters were able to contain the fire at around 9:30 p.m.
“The buildings were consumed but we were able to contain the fire to the property so that it did not spread any farther,” he said.
Franklin County Arson Investigator Jim Schumacher said the fire has been ruled an accident. He encourages Franklin County residents to heed this example.
“The conditions are favorable for fires and we discourage anyone from burning right now,” he said.
New Haven/Berger Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Brad Mauney said the remains were still smoldering as of Friday morning and could remain in that condition for some time due to the current climate
“We have been out to check on it several times on Thursday and Friday and will continue to monitor it so that it remains contained,” he said.
No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.