SALEM, Ohio – Delno Henry has been putting out fires for other people for 35 years. Last week, he had to put out one of his own.
Around 1 a.m. March 13, the Harpersfield Volunteer Fire Department firefighter was awakened by his fire monitor. It was an alarm for the address across the street from his home.
Henry jumped out of bed and ran to the window. But it wasn’t the neighbor’s property that was burning.
“No! It’s ours!” he yelled to his wife.
The passer-by who reported the blaze was one number off on the address.
Flames. The family’s two-story barn was engulfed in flames. Henry could tell it had been burning for a while, although he wasn’t sure exactly how long.
Even though it was his own barn, Henry did what years of training told him to – he put on his turnout gear and waited for the other firefighters to arrive.
“I proceeded to do what I normally do at a fire, although it was in a state of shock,” Henry said.
He wasn’t the only one treading on familiar territory. Henry’s sons, Frank and Gregory, who are also township firefighters, responded to the call, as did Henry’s brother, Harpersfield Township Fire Chief Everett Henry.
The family and about 60 other firefighters from four fire departments fought the blaze throughout the night. Unfortunately, all that remained by morning was ashes.
Henry said he has seen a lot of fires in his years with the department, but he never realized how it felt to be the property owner at the scene.
“The reality kind of set in, of the feeling they have,” he said.
Hay, machinery, animals. The barn, which housed a dairy until two years ago, was being used to store about 3,000 bales of hay, plus three tractors, a backhoe and all of the family’s hay-making equipment. It was also home to about 50 pigs, goats and steers.
Everything was lost in the blaze.
Henry, who sells hay and grain, said the 3,000 bales were already spoken for at the time of the fire.
“Now I’m in the process of trying to find a little extra hay to fill my orders,” he said.
The family has begun cleaning the mess left by the fire. Getting rid of it is making them all feel a little better, according to Henry.
“Today (March 17) was the first day we really got to go get things cleaned up,” he said.
The farm has been in the Henry family since Henry’s father bought it in 1944. Henry plants about 600 acres of soybeans, corn and wheat, plus 150-200 acres of hay.
He sells 10,000-15,000 bales of hay every year.
The Ashtabula County barn was about 50 feet wide and 140 feet long with a 20-foot milk house on one end.
Down, but not out. Luckily, everything destroyed by the fire was insured and Henry plans to replace the lost barn.
“We will rebuild,” he said. “We just don’t know what it’s going to be yet.”
Although nothing is certain, Henry and his family are thinking about building three barns – one for hay storage, one for machinery storage and one to house animals.
The fire chief said the cause of the fire is still undetermined, but arson has been ruled out. The state fire marshal is investigating the matter.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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