LAMAR - An extremely hot, smoky and very stubborn blaze destroyed a storage barn Tuesday afternoon at Steven K. Bierly Trucking, 5865 Nittany Valley Drive, Porter Township.
The initial report of a fully-involved barn fire sparked a large response from firefighters, who arrived from companies in Wayne Township, Sugar Valley, Dunnstown, Lock Haven, Nittany Valley and Lamar Township in Clinton County, and Miles and Walker Township and Howard Borough fire companies in Centre County.
The blaze sent a thick, black plume of smoke high into the sky near Route 64, a sight that could be seen from miles away, as motorists and truck drivers approached the scene from either direction.
Black smoke billows from the barn behind Steven K.?Bierly trucking on Nitanny Valley Road acorss from the Pilot truck stop in Lamar. The barn was totally destroyed.
The volunteers almost immediately established a porta-tank station near the road to augment the water supply and some time into the fight, a second station was set up on a gravel road about a football field away.
The immediate concern for the firefighters was the fire's close proximity to Bierly's two-bay garage. There were also a great many rigs on the lot, for the most part truck tractors and cattle haulers.
According to one firefighter, the barn was used to store hay for bedding in connection with the transport of cattle by truck, and a delivery had just been made about two weeks ago.
Bierly said besides the straw, it housed many tires, as well.
"There was 1,500 bales of straw, and 150 tires in there, too," Bierly said.
Bierly said he was in the other garage working when his 8-year-old son alerted him to the fire.
"My son came and told me I needed to look at something really quick," he said. "Within 10 minutes, it was fully engulfed." Firefighters arrived on the scene 10 minutes after they called 911.
He believes the Lamar Fire Co. used water from the pond across from the company.
Bierly applauded the firefighters' efforts.
"They saved the other building, and the storage trailor. They did everything they could," fighting the fire for about four hours, he said.
The Nittany Valley Fire Chief, who was in the middle of directing the battle against the flames, begged off making any comment. The chief will investigate Wednesday morning for the cause of the fire, Bierly said Tuesday evening.
Employees milled about nearby, talking to one another and watching the effort.
The burning building itself was a wood-frame structure covered in aluminum sheathing, which likely complicated matters for the volunteers.
In the early going, the roof had collapsed. The roof itself covered much of the burning hay with an impermeable cover that prevented water from the hoses from reaching parts of the structure beneath.
The fire was so intense that after the initial knock-down of the flames, there was little left to the standing, but for a few thin, darkened splinters of framing, some of them standing only because the buckled but still attached sheathing held them upright.
The structure was insured, and Bierly's insurance agent will arrive Wednesday morning to evaluate the damage, he said.
What will Bierly do now?
"We're gonna clean up and rebuild," Bierly said.
A flagman kept traffic running smoothly throughout the afternoon, even as additional calls were made for water supply and personnel to augment those already working the fire.
While many trucks were pulling in and out of the property at the Pilot Travel Plaza almost directly across the highway from the trucking business, the flaggers kept the lines moving and prevented any major congestion in the closer vicinity of the fire.
The Lock Haven Emergency Medical Service set up a station nearby to act as cooling station in the event any of the firefighters succumbed to heat exhaustion, and Amish families and others lugged coolers filled with ice-cold, bottled water to act against dehydration under the bright, cloudless noonday sun.
Some area fire companies were asked to stand by at the stations of those companies responding to the scene as a safeguard against lack of protection in those communities.
The Salvation Army's emergency response unit was also seen rushing to the scene.
Other emergency units could have responded, but a list of the participating volunteer agencies assisting on behalf of the community was not immediately available from Porter Township fire officials, who were on charge at the scene.