Large fire destroys hay barn; damage estimate $3M

A large fire on Monday night has destroyed a hay barn in Monck.

Firefighters were still working to extinguish the blaze more than 14 hours after the first call came in at 6:20pm on Nov. 14.

The fire tore through the hay barn, which was fully engulfed when Arthur and Mount Forest firefighters arrived.

The enormous barn, built just this summer, was filled with 640 acres worth of hay, farm equipment, drying equipment and a generator.

Homeowners Jorn and Eveline Steunebrink called 911 after seeing the fire.

Jorn said they were “sad, disappointed” and “don’t know how to describe it.”

Wellington North Fire Chief Dave Guilbault said the fire was tricky to fight.

“We started with obviously a defensive attack because there’s no way we’re entering the building,” he said.

He explained firefighters had to protect exposures, which included another barn, a shed, a generator room and a fuel tank.

“We made sure that the fire didn’t travel, the heat didn’t travel to that building. There’s a bit of damage, but we saved that building,” he said.

“We had a fuel tank at the back that [had] fire impingement on it so we had to make sure it didn’t explode. Plus there’s a generator room, so we saved the generator room.”

More than 35 firefighters battled the fire, including those from Dundalk, Grand Valley and Shelburne. The Minto fire department was standing by.

Firefighters were still working to put out the flames the following day, as it worked through the hay.

Guilbault explained they were pulling apart the hay to extinguish what they can get at and used sand and rock to smother the below-ground cavity.

“There’s no simple way to put this out. You can’t use an aerial ladder because you can’t get to the roof,” he said.

The fire was initially being treated as suspicious.

“We now treat all barn fires as suspicious until we can determine otherwise, because there have been so many,” the chief said.

“I’m not saying it is, but (that’s how) we’re treating it, because I want to make sure that’s not missed.”

Guilbault added no firefighters or civilians were hurt and there was no livestock in the barn. He is estimating the damage at $3 million.

“This is very, very, very devastating,” he said.

“I can tell you, I’ve been a firefighter for 45 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been to some large fires, but nothing like this.”

Another suspicious fire

While the cause is still under investigation for the Nov. 14 fire, Guilbault said another recent fire in Kenilworth is being treated as arson.

The Oct. 25 hay barn fire was also fully involved when firefighters arrived. It was a “total loss.”

Guilbault at the time was not treating it as suspicious, but received information a few days later so he turned the investigation over to the OPP.

“It was definitely not accidental, which we thought it was at first,” he said.