Barn leveled at Oconto-Shawano county line by fire

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Breaker box believed to be the cause
By: 

Warren Bluhm, wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com


A lone calf is in a pen at Kuhn Farms, W13605 Deering Road, in the town of Underhill as fire ravages the barn behind it. The cause of the fire is believed to be from issues with a breaker box. (Times Herald photo by Lee Pulaski)

Nine rural fire departments battled a blaze that leveled a barn on the Oconto-Shawano county line May 1.

No one was injured in the barn fire at Kuhn Farms, W13605 Deering Road in the town of Underhill, although about three head of cattle, a sow and piglets perished in the fire, Underhill Fire Chief Mark Winkler said Thursday (May 2).

Heavy smoke from hay and straw stored in the barn hampered the effort, Winkler said.

“Anyone who’s familiar with hay knows how much smoke it gives out,” he said. “It really hampered our ability to get at the fire. There was just so much smoke.”

The call came in at 4:51 p.m., and crews stayed at the scene until about 10:15 p.m.

The farm had previous issues with a breaker box, and there was evidence the fire started there, Winkler said.

“The places where the building is most gone is where the power enters – that seems to be the most complete burn,” he said.

The effort included 14 trucks from nine departments, with 55 firefighters on the scene. In addition to Underhill, personnel responded from the town and city of Gillett, Oconto Falls, Cecil-Washington, Bonduel, Keshena, Green Valley-Morgan, and Lena. Gillett Area Ambulance also assisted, and Jenda Trucking came out with an excavator to help take down the building and move the smoldering hay.

The Underhill Fire Department was called back to the farm Thursday when a bale of hay rekindled and spread to the wall of a feed shed.

Gillett Fire Chief Kurt Hicks reported to the City Council on Thursday that the department’s ladder truck played a key role in getting the blaze under control.

“We’ve been preaching for years that we can use that truck in that type of structure fire,” Hicks said. “We were able to pump for about five hours, thousands of gallons of water, and with the backhoe and us up above, we were able to contain that and get it out in that amount of time, and it was a huge fire with outbuildings.”

Smoke was so thick they couldn’t see the two firefighters who were working in the bucket, he said.

The departments drew water from a nearby pond and the Cecil and Underhill fire stations, Hicks said, adding that the various departments were able to attack the fire efficiently.

“We broke it down into sectors of the building, so each chief that was there took a different segment of it in command,” he said.

Hicks also reported that the Underhill Town Board last week approved an automatic aid agreement with the city of Gillett. Once the City Council ratifies the agreement, the Gillett and Underhill departments will both be paged when a call comes in for either one.