STARKS — Selectman Paul Frederic watched as fire crews battled a blaze that fully engulfed his barn during blizzard conditions Thursday night, and he feared it wouldn’t be long before the fire spread to his house and his garage, which stood just 30 feet away from the burning barn.

“The wind was blowing like mad between the barn and the house,” he said.

As crews worked to extinguish the flames, Frederic and his family started taking belongings from the Chicken Street home so that they would be safe if the house caught fire.

The fire did indeed claim his barn, an outbuilding and five of his dairy calves, but the house and garage were saved.

“We were lucky. The fire people did an incredible job to save the house,” he said in a phone call Wednesday morning.

Frederic said that about 5:45 p.m. Thursday, he had just finished his evening chores and turned on his tractor so he could move snow blocking one of the gates on his farm. He left the tractor to warm up and went inside for coffee and a snack. It was maybe 10 minutes later when his daughter-in-law, who had been driving by with Frederic’s son and grandson, ran into the house and said the barn was on fire.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, the barn was fully engulfed and the outbuilding was also on fire.

Frederic said it took only 20 minutes for the barn to collapse.

“It was cold and windy. It just gave the fire a lot more oxygen,” said Chief Don French, of the Madison Fire Department.

French said the crews were able to contain the barn fire to keep it from jumping to the home, and they extinguished it by 9:30 p.m.

In addition to the Madison crew, crews from Anson and Starks responded to the call, as did tankers from New Sharon and Industry; while firefighters from Norridgewock and Skowhegan were called to cover the area stations.

On Friday morning, French said he didn’t know whether the fire’s source had been identified. He said Frederic had some things plugged in inside the barn, and it could have been an electrical problem.

Frederic guessed that the cause could have been the tractor, which had been warming up in the barn when the fire started.

Along with the barn, the outbuilding and the five heifers, the tractor and other tools in the barns were destroyed. Some of the siding on the house melted as well.

Frederic said he has an insurance policy for his barn, tractor and cattle, and he reported the damage to the company.

His main concern Friday morning were the 14 heifers who escaped from the burning barn.

“They’re pretty unhappy that their house is gone.”

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

 

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