Carter’s Farm loses barn in fire
A barn full of straw and hay burned Sept. 16 southwest of Park Rapids. No one was hurt.
Park Rapids, Menahga and Nevis fire personnel responded Friday to a barn fire at 14766 119th Ave. Park Rapids, the location of Carter’s Farm and fall festival.
According to Ben Cumber, assistant fire chief with the Park Rapids Fire Department, North Memorial Health Ambulance and the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the scene.
He estimated that the page went out at about 8:20 a.m. and the scene was cleared at about 1:20 p.m. Participating in the response were about six fire apparatus from Park Rapids, two from Nevis and two or three from Menahga, with about 30-40 personnel altogether.
“I believe their Bobcat started the straw on fire, and the homeowner was unable to get it out,” said Cumber. “The barn was completely full of straw. It was a complete loss. We had our Cumber Construction excavator out there, and we tore it all apart, everything that was left, and put it out.”
Cumber said Second Assistant Chief Bob Meier was first on scene, but that he and Joe Carlson coordinated the operation together, involving multiple tanker trucks siphoning water out of the nearby Straight River and emptying them into a dump tank to supply hoses spraying water on the fire.
“This was one of them fire calls where everything went perfectly as planned,” he said. “All the training. Everybody did awesome. Other than the homeowner losing their stuff, this was about as good as fire department can perform, in my opinion.”
Asked how much water they used, Cumber said, “It was a lot. Straw fires and hay fires are terrible, when it comes to water consumption. We probably did 20 loads of water.”
There were no injuries, Cumber said, and no animals were harmed to his knowledge.
Owner speaks up
“We’re just overwhelmed with gratitude,” said Carter’s Farm owner Dwight Carter, “to see those guys coming and sweating and working. You feel like you’re part of a community, and you see them coming from neighboring communities, and the experience they have and their attitude, the support they give. You could tell the fire chief was doing everything he could to help us.”
Carter confirmed that there was both straw and hay in the farm. “We had, actually, more straw than hay,” he said, explaining they use the straw for the fall festival and for mulching strawberries. “That burns faster than the hay.”
His brother had been keeping some pigs in the barn, Carter said, but he put them out to pasture in time. “That was so fortunate that there was no real danger to animals or people.”
Carter said the fire damage won’t affect the schedule for their fall festival, which begins Saturday, Sept. 24. “So that there’s no problem, with a lot of kids coming to the festival, we should have it well partitioned off by then,” he said.
Regarding the loss of the barn, Carter recalled a family member saying it was like losing a good, old friend.
“Especially if it’s a dairy barn, where you spent so much of your time,” he said. “As we were growing up, we were in there for a few hours every day. Some of our neighbors that helped us out when we had to leave and go off to events, they would come and pitch in and milk for us. So, you feel that. It’s more of an emotional loss than a financial loss.”
He said it stirs up memories. “That barn was a dream for my father,” he said. “I remember him talking about how he and my grandfather would always dream about having a nice dairy farm. They kept purebred Ayrshire cattle, and my dad kept them until he couldn’t do it anymore. So, you just think about the generations and the herd.”
Carter said he was grateful to the fire personnel for saving some charred cattle registration papers and herd records from the barn. “Memories and dreams are what it’s about,” he said, adding that the fire has also created a bridge to the next generation.
“The biggest encouragement for me was standing in the rubble with my nephews, and (they said), ‘No, we’ll make a better barn. We’ll redo it.’ It might not be for a dairy, but they have their own dreams.”
According to a Sept. 20 press release, deputies were called out to the fire scene at 8:15 a.m. on Sept. 16. Upon arrival, they found the barn, a straw shed and a storage shed fully engulfed.
Investigation showed that Carter was operating a skid steer in the barn when a spark from the exhaust ignited the straw, the release states. He tried to extinguish the fire with his shirt, but the fire spread too quickly.
Carter retrieved the skid steer and another piece of equipment from the barn before they also caught fire, the release states. His hair and beard were singed. Buildings and contents were a total loss.