About 25 volunteer firefighters responded to a report of an explosion around 12:30 p.m. near the intersection of Huntington County roads 200 North and 700 West in Andrews Thursday.
Andrews Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tom Wuensch said he shut down his excavating business so he and five other workers could help extinguish the fire, which occurred inside a pole barn at the property.
“I was the first fireman on scene, and it was fully involved,” Wuensch recalled. “I live on Division Road, so I live about two miles from the scene. I was at my house when we got called, and I could see it from my house. When it went up, it went up quick.”
Multiple neighbors reported hearing a large bang caused by a possible explosion.
Wuensch said crews will be investigating the cause of the fire Friday afternoon since the cause is currently undetermined.
“We couldn’t find in there – the pole barn that exploded – we can’t find anything in there that exploded, so that’s why I’m calling in the fire marshal, but other people heard it at the same time in surrounding areas. We couldn’t find anything yesterday at the fire, so I’ve got the fire marshal coming in today so we can try to figure out what the bang was and what caused the fire.”
Wuensch said it took about three hours to extinguish the flames because the structure was collapsing and utilities were still connected when crews arrived around 12:40 p.m.
“We got it shot down real quick and cooled off, but our hangup was that we had to wait for the power company to come because the meter was still hot on the building and it kept blowing sparks at us,” Wuensch said. “We had to try and protect ourselves from that while putting the rest of the fire out, trying to get the fire completely knocked out.”
Crews deemed the structure unsafe shortly after arriving on scene because the roof had collapsed and the side walls were caving in. Wuensch said he retrieved his excavator so that crews could extinguish the hot spots and flames inside.
“We ended up pulling the front off of it and pushing the side walls over it with my excavator to get the fire completely out,” he said.
No one was injured during the fire.
“No one was in the structure when it happened,” he said.
The pole barn is not salvageable, Wuensch said, but firefighters report that the property owner does have insurance on the structure.
“They lost everything, classic cars – everything,” Wuensch said.
Wuensch said firefighters have to be extra cautious when fighting pole barn fires because the structures lack the support that homes and traditional buildings have.
“When the trusses caved in, it pulled the side walls and both end walls in toward the structure, so everything was coming in on top of each other,” he said.
Huntington Township Volunteer Fire Department, Mt. Etna Volunteer Fire Department, Bippus Volunteer Fire Department and Lagro Volunteer Fire Department all responded to the scene.
Wuensch thanked all of the first responders who helped extinguish the fire.
“During the day, all volunteer fire departments are short-handed. Come 4 p.m., we have firemen out the ying-yang, but during the day every volunteer fire departments in this county is short handed,” he said.