By Joe Beck
Firefighters from New Market and several other departments battled numbing cold and swirling winds Tuesday night as a fire destroyed a barn at 400 Cardinal Road.
Jason Eaton, who co-owns the barn with his father John, said he was unsure what caused the fire, but speculated it may have been linked to an electrical problem.
"The only thing I can tell you is that I came home at 6, and at 6:30 a lady who was a passerby knocked on the door and said, 'your barn's on fire,"' Eaton said. "I went out, and I could see the back corner of the barn where it started and called 911 and my father, and it just went from there."
New Market Fire Chief Robbie Smith said his department fielded the call at about 6:30 p.m.
"When we got there, the barn was pretty heavily involved," Smith said. "Of course, we had some good winds, and we pretty much wrote the barn off when we got there."
Smith said firefighters concentrated on protecting nearby buildings from the fire. A separate hay barn, silo and the Eaton residence survived without damage.
"We were in defense mode to save what was around it, and we were successful at that, so that's a good thing," Smith said.
Smith said firefighters relied on tankers shuttling water to the site from New Market to bring the fire under control after about 45 minutes. It took about another three hours for the barn to collapse and building debris to smother the fire, he said.
Eaton said the two-story barn held two hay balers, along with hay and straw. Some of the Eatons' approximately 300 Holstein cows were outside the barn and survived without injury.
Eaton said the cows were moved out of the cold to another shelter on the farm's 300 to 400 acres. He said another facility on the property was available for milking them.
Eaton said he and his father have farmed the site for at least 30 years and planned to rebuild the barn after "getting the claim done" with their insurance company.
"Naturally, I'm upset, but we'll get through it," Eaton said.
Smith said fire departments from Shenandoah County, Mount Jackson, Edinburg, Woodstock and Conicville all helped New Market control the blaze. Companies from Timberville and Broadway in Rockingham County and Luray in Page County also contributed, he said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org