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Fire destroys 150-year-old barn in Shenandoah County

A Shenandoah County family lost a barn built in the late 1800s to fire Wednesday.

Firefighters responding to the blaze off Ramsey Drive near Messick Road arrived to find flames consuming the barn. Crews miles away could see smoke rising from the farm.

Dispatchers received a call shortly before 4:20 p.m. reporting the fire. Crews from Fort Valley, Edinburg and Strasburg fire departments responded to the blaze and were assisted by the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department.

Firefighters took a more defensive stand against the blaze and protected other structures while the barn burned.

“That’s about all that you can do with something like this,” said Bill Streett, of the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department. “If you can keep off the exposures that’s the name of the game. It’s probably the best case outcome really.”

No animals were inside the barn at the time of the fire, according to Gary Ramsey, son of the owner, Ellen Ramsey. No one was hurt in the fire, Gary Ramsey said.

Ramsey stood on the private driveway of the property and watched as the barn burned, causing large beams to collapse and turn to ash. He estimated the barn was about 40 feet by 100 feet.

“I’m supposed to read about this,” Ramsey said. “This doesn’t happen to me.”

Firefighters did keep flames and heat from spreading and igniting a barn full of hay bales roughly 50 feet from the burning structure. The home lies further away from the barn.

“They responded quickly,” Ramsey said. “That’s all you can ask but when a barn catches on fire, you can be beside the firehouse and it’s too late.”

Ramsey said he wasn’t on the property when the fire started. He said he believed his brother may have called 911 when the fire began.

“I was a mile over the road going up the hill there, I saw smoke, I didn’t think it was here,” Ramsey recalled. “I know that across the road here they’re doing some renovations and they’re gonna burn some old buildings.

“But I saw that smoke but it was also in line between me and where my house is … so I thought ‘well, I’m gonna go look,'” Ramsey added. “It wasn’t my house but it was the next worse thing.”

The family also lost a tractor, a wagon and a hay-baler in the fire as well as 600 to 700 bales of hay, Ramsey said. His brother did save another tractor from the blaze, he said. The fire also destroyed numerous farm tools, according to Ramsey.

“You won’t know what you lost ’til you need it,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey and his brother, Jay, who operate the farm, worked with the cattle in the barn Wednesday morning and put them out to pasture.

“Well he was working on a tractor and I guess he’d started some kind of a battery charger,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey spoke to fire officials at the scene and noted that he hadn’t stored any green hay in the barn.

Ramsey’s great-grandfather, J.E. Coberstone, had the barn built in 1892, he said. While the family does have insurance, Ramsey noted it would take work to replace the barn.

“They don’t build barns like that anymore,” Ramsey said.

augusta free press
augusta free press