60 Holstein calves saved from barn fire

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

WEST FRANKLIN — A hay and straw-fueled fire caused thousands of dollars worth of damage when it tore through a barn housing 60 Holstein calves at a farm on Monday morning.

The barn at Clayholm Farms, 166 Clayholm Lane, was a complete loss, said Worthington fire Chief Randy Bowser, adding that the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

The farm, owned by Ray Claypoole Jr. and Mervin Claypoole, is operated by Leland and Roy Claypoole.

Roy said his brother Leland spotted the smoke at around 8 a.m.

He said it took them both about 45 minutes to get all the calves out to safety, unlocking each wooden pen and pulling every animal out.

“Burning logs were coming down around us,” he said.

At least 10 area fire departments responded to the scene forming a relay of tanker trucks along a nearby road to ensure a steady supply of water to extinguish the flames.

One firefighter said he watched as the last three calves were led out to safety. Several chickens which had been roosting in the barn managed to escape on their own.

As an excavator worked on knocking down the remaining sagging structure, the Claypooles were faced with the problem of how to care for the displaced calves.

“We're trying to keep them warm,” said Ray as he walked to the back of an out-building used to store heavy farm equipment.

The calves, ranging in age from one week to three months, were temporarily corralled there until a more permanent place could be found.

Ray's wife, Shirley, said a tractor also was destroyed in the fire.

But the fire also had onsumed the calves food supply.

“We needed the hay and now we don't have it,” said Shirley.

She said she avoided going down to the barn for most of the morning and only arrived on scene in order to bring pizzas to the hungry firefighters.

“It's devastating and heartbreaking, but at least no one was hurt,” she said.

South Buffalo, Sugarcreek, Rayburn, Applewold, Kittanning Hose Co. 1, West Kittanning, Worthington-West Franklin and East Franklin fire departments and Kittanning Hose Co. 6 ambulance were among the companies responding.

Bad weather day

Firefighters labored to douse the fire as freezing rain gave way to a steady downpour of rain.

A winter weather advisory was in effect Monday morning for Armstrong and surrounding counties after freezing rain and ice accumulation was forecast for much of the region. Armstrong School District canceled classes and activities and state police said there were at least a dozen weather-related vehicle accidents.

Kenneth Campbell, assistant Armstrong County manager with PennDOT, said although temperatures rose above freezing during the day, motorists still need to exercise caution on area roads, especially on secondary roads where icy patches might still be present.

He also noted that material added to roadways for melting snow and ice could get washed away by rain.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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