May 24, 2020

Fire destroys former chicken barn at Pleasant Hill > Building was used to store construction tools, trucks

HERMON — A metal-enclosed former chicken barn off Union Street on Pleasant Hill was destroyed Tuesday morning by a fire that raced through the dry structure and caused damage estimated in the thousands of dollars.

A crew of 15 Hermon firefighters, with backup from Levant, Glenburn and Bangor fire departments, fought the fire for about two hours before starting a mop-up operation.

The barn, which was used to store construction tools, two trucks, several appliances, insulation, electrical and welding equipment, propane tanks, and gasoline and oil, was owned by Neil Barschdorf, a partner in a construction business.

No one was injured in the fire, and its cause is unknown, according to Assistant Fire Chief Craig Charloux of the Hermon Fire Department. He said the state Fire Marshal’s Office had been called about the fire as a matter of routine.

Barschdorf, who was at a construction job when the fire occurred, said later that he had “no idea” how the fire started. He said he was not sure whether the structure was insured.

Charloux said the alarm was received around 9:25 a.m., and the fire department responded with its tanker and three engines. He said the barn was in flames when the crew arrived, and that there was a brief problem with getting water to fight the fire.

The assistant chief said the fire spread quickly through the structure because of “the age of the barn and the type of construction.” He said there were no fire breaks in the structure, which he called “a dry, brittle barn.”

The fire sent billowing columns of black smoke into the air that could be seen as far away as Brewer. At one point an explosion, believed to be a propane tank, sent a flare of orange flame several stories into the air.

Robert Pickard, a neighbor who once owned the barn, said he was returning from work around 9:30 a.m. when he saw flames coming from the northeast end of the barn, shooting about 10 feet above the upper windows. He called the fire department.

“By the time I came out … most of the roof had melted off,” he said.

Pickard, a former poultry farmer, said the barn once housed 12,000 laying hens before he went out of business about 10 years ago and the structure was sold to Barschdorf. Watching the fire burn, he said he was concerned that the fire might reach another old barn nearby, that he still owned. The fire, however, was contained to Barschdorf’s barn.

Brenda Rivers, business partner with Barschdorf in Rivers Construction Co., said she heard the fire from a nearby mobile home.

“I heard it sizzling — it sounded just like putting hamburgers on the grill,” said Rivers. She said she first thought that the other barn owned by Pickard had caught fire, because “it looked so far away.”

Rivers listed the numerous items she thought were in the barn, estimating the damage in the thousands of dollars.

“We’ve been building houses,” she said. “Looks like we have to build a barn now.”

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