The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Fire Destroys "Max's" home

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher

Mitch Lefler of rural Stronghurst comforts his 4 year-old Labador Retriever "Max," whose sleeping quarters in a "hog barn" was stolen from him in a Monday evening fire.

The fire, of unknown origin, was spotted by Mitch and Debbie Lefler's 9 year old daughter Rachel, who was home with her dad. Brother Garrett had gone to a weather spotting meeting at the Stronghurst Fire Department which many of the area firemen were also attending.

According to Chris Cook, who assists on calls at the station, there were 70 at the weather meeting when the siren rang, and only 15 remained for the class as firemen tore out of the meeting to answer the call.

At the start of the meeting, Chris said the instructor told the class that if the fire siren goes off during the class, stay seated because the firemen present will knock you down getting to their trucks.

The fire could be seen shooting in the air as far as Roseville, Jim and Joyce Hetrick said, who were driving from Roseville to Stronghurst.

"I've never seen a fire that big," Jim said.

Mitch said the structure was an old corn crib that was square in shape, set on a concrete slab, probably over 50 years old. He was using the building to house a lawnmower and as a farrowing house for his kids 4-H project, a sow and little pigs, as well as storing hay and other items. All was a loss.

"Rachel was pretty spazed out when she called her mom's cell phone and she didn't answer," Mitch said. She had turned her cell phone off so it wouldn't disrupt the meeting."

"I called the old fire department number and it said it was disconnected," and I was becoming pretty spazed myself," he said. He had forgotten about the 9-1-1, and called the Sheriff's office direct.

He was having some trouble explaining to their new dispatcher where he lives and finally said, "Just follow the flames, they'll find me."

Mitch said he counted 40 to 45 firemen, but the shed was too engulfed in flames to save.

"I was fortunate the wind was blowing the flames away from the house and garage."

Even then, the heat from the fire warped the siding on the west side of the garage.

Mitch was so appreciative of the firemen and their professionalism.

The LP tank was setting right next to the corn crib and was of concern.

"Arb Vancil and Scott Ford knew just what to do. You could tell they had been trained.

"The first thing they did, was Scott Ford turned the electricity off."

Then Mitch said they soaked the LP tank with water, cooling it down, and someone with gloves, turned the gas off.

Besides MST, there were firemen from Raritan and Roseville. They were constantly making trips to town to get more water from a hydrant in front of The Quill.

They were pretty quickly able to bring the shooting flames of the fire, to the ground. Some of the hay, even in the Tuesday's rain, was still smoldering and smoking as the insurance adjuster left.

Mitch said that he has insurance on the contents and his landlords, the Kettelkamps who live in town, carry the insurance on the building.

"I am relieved the wind was in the direction to avoid catching the house and garage on fire."

Mitch says he doesn't think it would take too much to clean up the mess and that it may not take too much to replace the building.

He wanted to make sure that it was mentioned how appreciative he was of the firemen and their quick response, and Jody Bigger who came over and took Rachel to her house, and the Plate Services who came Tuesday morning to run a new electrical line to the water pump so they could have water.

Although he lost the sow and babies, 4 or 5 other sows remained safe in the barn located west of the demolished corn crib.

Their dog "Max" is getting use to a pen they made for him east of their house, but their cat tore off across the field south. "We don't expect to see him back."

Henderson County residents are reminded that all they have to do in case of a fire or an emergency, is to dial 9-1-1