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Fire consumes barn on Salem dairy farm

| Thursday, May 3, 2012, 6:28 p.m.

A fire blamed on spontaneous combustion consumed a barn housing cattle and calves on a Salem farm late Wednesday.

"We are definitely counting our blessings. No one got hurt, and only one cow is missing," said Chuck Carr, grandson of Charles Carr Sr., who bought the 700-acre Lone Oak Farm in 1958. The 163-head dairy farm is operated by three generations of Carrs -- Chuck Carr and his brother, his father Charles Jr., and his grandfather.

Carr said some of the 15 calves housed in the barn were burned when pieces of the roof began falling on them. As of Thursday morning, only one cow was unaccounted for, he said.

"The calves had some hair loss and some burns, but the vet checked them and said they would be all right," he said. The animals are being cared for at a neighboring farm.

Forbes Road fire Chief Bob Rosatti said the spontaneous combustion occurred in hay bales just before 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and ignited the barn quickly.

"Our station is four and half miles from the barn, and we could see it lighting up the sky as we approached," the chief said, noting a spontaneous combustion fire is relatively common in the farming community.

Units from 12 fire departments, including one from Indiana County, responded to the blaze.

Rosatti said firefighters let the fire burn out and concentrated on collecting the animals and keeping the fire from spreading to the milking barn, which is the center of the business.

"We were in defensive mode," he said.

Units remained on the scene until 2:30 a.m. yesterday, then returned shortly after 6 a.m. to provide water, Rosatti said.

Carr said he is grateful to firefighters and neighbors who pitched in to help the family.

"I didn't even know some of the people who came to help us. The fire department came back (Thursday) to set up a pumper truck so we can have water for the cows," he said.

Rosatti said the fire was heartbreaking but inspiring.

"It hurts us to see good people endure this, but it was great to see everyone step up to help them. You don't see that too much today," he said.

There was no damage estimate. Carr said the family will rebuild the structure.

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