Blaze levels Goodrich barn, no injuries
An intense barn fire broke out a little after 12 p.m. on April 5 at Broadlands Grass Farm, a Medford dairy farm owned and operated by Ryan and Cheri Klussendorf in the town of Goodrich.
The fire is believed to be electrical in nature, as it was ignited in the area where electricity was fed into the barn from the main transformer. The fire began on the upper floor, burning downwards until the entire building torched.
“We were sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch, and all of a sudden my middle son said ‘I think there’s smoke coming out of the barn!’ and Ryan ran and instantly killed the power to the barn, and I dialed 911,” Cheri Klussendorf said, noting that neither they, nor the animals, were harmed. “We were able to get about 30 calves out of the barn that was burning. My two older sons, myself, and Ryan went in to get them out.”
After making sure the cattle in the flaring barn were out of harm’s way, the Klussendorfs turned their attention to the producer cows.
“We got the milk cows out of the yard... we got them moved out to a pasture, down in a low spot so the smoke would go over them and not into them, so they wouldn’t get any type of lung issues from it.” She said they were fortunate no one was injured, especially since they didn’t realize the full extant of the blaze at the time.
“We were very, very lucky. After seeing the flames in the barn, it’s kind of like ‘Wow, I can’t believe we ran in there.’ Because we didn’t see it, we didn’t know what it looked like when we were in there... It was all burning above us, nothing had really come down below.”
Members of the Medford Area Fire Department, Stetsonville Volunteer Fire Department and Athens Area Fire Department responded to the call and battled the fire for hours.
“They were on scene until about seven o’clock [Sunday] night. I would say the active fire lasted until about three, and then they were putting out hotspots and ripping down walls.”
The structure collapsed and fell in on itself around 1 p.m., leaving no more than a fragmented stone base showered with charred splinters of timber and rainbowarched metal. Three silos still flank the devoured barn, one with an outer chute blistered and scalloped along its full length.
“It was a very quick fire... The barn was just wood. We had stored some stuff up in there, one layer of hay, so there wasn’t a lot of fuel, but there was enough and it burned hot,” Klussendorf said, gesturing towards several plastic holding tanks marred with sunken surfaces, distorted by the rippling heat.
Fortunately, the fire didn’t destroy their vital agriculture equipment, and the Klussendorfs have insurance for what was ruined.
“Our plans are to rebuild; the parlor is intact. We will have to rebuild the building around it, but the parlor itself is intact, and the milking equipment is intact,” Klussendorf said. “The freestall barn is intact, but we’ll probably have to take two bays of it out where there is some heat damage and burning.”
Despite the heavy damage inflicted upon their farm, the Klussendorfs continue to work, milking their cows at a temporary location.
“We were able to move all the cows to a farm down on Willow. All the cows are there, we’re able to milk them everyday. They’re doing great for the adjustment that they’ve had to have.”
An overwhelming amount of compassion poured in from neighbors, as people crowded the lot to help in any way they could.
“The immense support that we got from the community was awesome. We had 20-plus trailers show up, we’ve had people help load, anything they could do, they did. They just wanted something to do,” Klussendorf said. “Everybody wants to hug you because they know you’re going through so much.”
Klussendorf said the family won’t let the fire hamper them too much, and they’ll continue to look towards the future. In fact, their herd continues to grow stronger, as a calf was born on the same day the fire occurred.
“We’re trying to be positive. That’s something we decided that night as a family. We are going to come out stronger in the end.”