SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Layne Kind was riding his four-wheeler up to the barn Aug. 25 when he first saw the smoke coming out of the machinery building.
He ran across the road to get a bucket of water, but by the time he returned, the flames were up to the building’s ceiling.
Around the same time, Layne’s uncle, Dwight Kind, could see the accumulating smoke from the pasture where he was mowing.
Richard Kind, Dwight’s father, had been working in the barn across the road when he got a call on his cell phone. He turned to look at the building full of valuable farm machinery, antiques and tools that was now burning to the ground.
The three men quickly went to work, trying to rescue the equipment. Richard said there was no time to think about what to try to save.
“It was just a matter of getting everything away from the building that we could,” he said.
Layne later told his grandfather that as he was moving equipment, he saw the building wall glowing.
While moving tractors, Layne called 911, and firetrucks began arriving five minutes later.
By then, less than 30 minutes from when Layne first saw the smoke, the entire building was engulfed in flames.
The three men were able to save three tractors and a dump truck.
“We tried to go for other equipment, but it was just too hot,” Richard said.
So hot, in fact, that although no one was seriously injured, Dwight suffered second degree burns on his face and arm.
So hot that none of the Kinds nor the state fire marshal, who had visited the scene twice, were able to determine the exact cause.
Their best guess is that a fuse shorted out in the electrical box, creating a spark that was fueled by the oil and gas tanks of the equipment.
It took more than 20 firetrucks from nine departments in three counties to battle the blaze. In addition to the burning building, firefighters put out six fires in the surrounding field that had sparked from flying embers.
Ronald Steele, assistant fire chief at the Slippery Rock Fire Department, said about 75 firefighters spent nearly three hours at the scene.
Layne, along with Dwight and Richard, helped out however he was able to, but he said he was “still in total shock” about what had happened.
The building itself was insured for $65,000. The Kinds are waiting for the insurance company to determine the total estimate for the equipment, which they predict could be more than $1 million.
The long list of equipment lost in the disaster include six tractors, a corn planter, a feed grinder, two gravity wagons, a self-propelled silage harvester, a pull-behind chopper and all of the farm tools.
A 1946 International KB5 truck and a 1948 John Deere tractor that belonged to Richard’s father-in-law were also destroyed.
Richard remembers the comment his father-in-law made when he purchased that tractor.
“He said, ‘In this part of the country, they’ll never need a bigger tractor.'”
The sharing of that memory is just one example of how the Kinds are moving forward with a positive, “it-could-have-been-worse” attitude.
“We don’t anticipate too many problems,” Richard said. “It won’t cover everything, but we’re well insured and we have a good agent.”
It’s a little too early to know what the next steps will be in terms of rebuilding, but one thing is for sure.
“We definitely won’t have the shop and machinery shed connected,” Richard said. “They’ll be two separate buildings.”
He hopes to have a new building constructed “before the snow flies.”
With the machinery they were able to save and the use of a chopper donated by a local equipment dealer, the Kinds should be able to finish harvesting their crops this season.
“All the neighbors have offered equipment, though,” said Richard.
“There’s just been a continuous stream of people offering help.”
“And food,” added Layne.
Photos of what remains of the Kinds’ machinery shed and equipment
Up in flames
Layne Kind recorded this video of the fire using his cell phone.