A rural hayshed erupted in flames, destroying 700 alfalfa bales, a tractor, and the structure itself at 5:15 a.m. Thursday near Durham.
When Warren Unruh, owner of the shed, learned of the fire, he sent his 21-year-old son, Nathan, to see whether there was any chance to save anything.
“I rushed over,” Warren Unruh said. “I thought maybe we could get a few bails out, but there was no way.”
Warren Unruh is a Roxbury firefighter. Tampa and Durham firefighters also responded.
“We didn’t put a gallon of water on it,” he said. “It was too far gone. We just kind of sat there and watched. After a while, the other departments left.”
Left with two 1,000-gallon trucks, Unruh and family monitored the fire. It burned all day Thursday, most of Friday, and continued to smolder until Monday.
“Luckily the building held together and the roof stayed on, which was fortunate because it helped keep the embers from spreading,” he said. “There was a wheat stubble field nearby.”
Unruh estimated the loss at up to $182,000, including $80,000 to $100,000 of alfalfa, $10,000 to $12,000 for a 1970’s model John Deere tractor with a front loader, and about $70,000 for the charred shed they built 1½ years ago.
“You think about dollar loss, but you also think about all the time in the field, all the late hours and nights worked,” Unruh said. “My brother, Mark, and I are in a partnership. We lost a whole summer’s worth of work. It’s hard to imagine how many hours we put in.”
Unruh said a state fire marshal told him the fire could have been caused by arson, a short in the tractor, or a wet spot in alfalfa that started to smolder.
“We always try to do the right thing and test the bails for problems,” Unruh said.
“It’s just a big headache to get it all cleaned up, and you don’t know what to do, rebuild it or leave it be.”