Fire companies from three counties -- Cumberland, Franklin and Adams -- worked together last Wednesday to extinguish a four-alarm blaze that destroyed a barn and its contents at 185 Smith Road in Penn Township.
Chief Chris Alleman of the Penn Township Fire Co. said, “The initial call was at 12:15 p.m. for a reported 50-pound propane tank on fire inside a shed, with no size given. When I crested the hill in Centerville and saw the very thick column of black smoke in the air, I knew we had something bigger than a shed fire. I arrived on the scene, and found a barn already fully engulfed in flames and had dispatch upgrade the box assignment. The call for apparatus was three alarms for additional tankers due to being a rural area and very few fire hydrants, and four alarms for additional manpower due to the heat and humidity. We had a total of about 80 firefighters on the scene that came as far away as Chambersburg and Camp Hill. Water was shuttled from a hydrant on Centerville Road, about 3 miles away and from a dry hydrant on Farm Road about 2 miles away. We shuttled a total of 55 loads of water on an average of 3,000 gallons per tanker that equals about 165,000 gallons of water.”
The contents included many bales of hay, farm machinery and miscellaneous items. Some firefighters and units were on the scene for about four and a half hours making sure all of the hot spots were extinguished.
Alleman added, “There were no injuries reported to any firefighters. We had three ambulances on the scene for rehab checking the firefighters’ vitals and giving them plenty of cold drinks to keep them hydrated. There was no livestock lost and firefighters did save two calves.”
Robert Kough Jr., township emergency management coordinator, said, “The owner was Nelson Martin and most of everything should have been insured by the family’s church. We have no monetary total of loss at this time.”
Alleman said, “The cause of the fire was the propane tank on fire that sat next to another smaller tank. At one time, according to a family member, there was a flame about 8 feet high coming from the tank. The radiant heat from the fire just spread so quickly from one section to another, engulfing everything in flames.”
Kough said, “The family, along with many friends and relatives, were already in the rebuilding stage and new footers were being placed as of last Saturday, three days after the fire.”
Alleman said there were quite a few fire companies that responded to the scene. “A great effort and teamwork by all agencies involved,” he added.