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Four cows die in York County barn fire during storm

Written by Brandie Kessler/York Daily Record | Feb 27, 2017 3:10 AM
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Jim Rexroth in front of the barn that burned at Rexroth Farms in Hellam Township speculates that is was storm related. Four cows were lost in the 100 year old barn.(Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

(Undated) -- The Rexroth family didn't know Sunday who had let their cows out of a barn on their property a day earlier, but they were grateful to whoever it was.

"It was a good samaritan," said Jim Rexroth, son of Rexroth Farms' owner Ken Rexroth.

Had the passerby not stopped, 10 young cows and possibly more older cows would have died in a fire that destroyed the barn they were in, one of two on the property in the 1000 block of Old Commons Road in Lower Windsor Township. Four cows did die in the fire, which may have been caused by a lightning strike, Jim Rexroth said.

Craley Fire Department Chief Jesse Frantz said he will have to talk with the U.S. Geological Survey, which tracks lightning strikes, to find out whether a lightning strike is definitely the cause of the fire. But it seems lighting is a possibility.

"The way the fire was, it all seemed to be up top," suggesting it could have been caused by a lightning strike, Frantz said.

Jim Rexroth, of Rexroth Farms, talks about how the historic barn burned and what was lost. Four cows died in the fire. Paul Kuehnel

 

The barn that burned had between 20,000 and 30,000 bales of straw inside, which firefighters had to pull out using a track hoe and then drench with water, Frantz said. Fire companies from as far as Strinestown responded to the fire and 17 tankers were used to haul in hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.

Crews were dispatched to the scene shortly after 4 p.m. The last emergency personnel left after 1 a.m. Sunday.

"With it being an over 100-year-old barn, the wood was a little separated," Frantz said, noting that the ventilation allowed the fire to catch and move more quickly. "It went from a small fire to a fully involved in a matter of minutes."

Jim Rexroth praised the work of the fire crews. "They had to make the right moves or it would have been two (barns destroyed) instead of one," he said, motioning toward the barn left standing, the side of which had some burned areas.

Although he was grateful no one was injured and the damage was limited to one barn, Jim Rexroth said that barn was the "marquis barn of the farmstead."

His father has a tremendous appreciation for the history of the farmstead and had put a lot of work into restoring and cleaning up the barns. "He was so proud of the diamonds in the rough that he polished," Jim Rexroth said.

But the barn that burned Saturday was "not our first heartbreak," Jim Rexroth said. He noted two other buildings that had had fires in years past, including a home on the property that was rebuilt after a chimney fire and another outbuilding that was destroyed in an arson.

The barn won't be rebuilt, or at least not rebuilt to what it was. "It was a turn-of-the-century barn," Jim Rexroth said. "In 2017, you don't build back a barn that's going to be labor-intensive. It was a part of history. Every time we lose one, that's it. It's gone."

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