FREMONT, INDIANA — Fire fighters from three states, including four from Williams County alone, responded to a blaze at the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve, 0746 Ray Road, Thursday morning and battled it all day long.
Fremont Fire Chief Eric Hufnagle was first on the scene with his department at 7:26 a.m. and found flames shooting through the roof of a 17,000-square-foot barn storing 700 bales of rolled hay. Twenty minutes later the barn was fully engulfed as he called out for mutual aid “with any and all available tankers” as well as heavy equipment operators. The Williams County Emergency Management Agency coordinated a response and initially two tankers from Northwest and Florence Township fire departments responded, then later, two more tankers from Edgerton and Montpelier fire departments were on scene.
“I’ll tell you what’s impressive,” said Dr. John Trippy, who owns the Preserve as well as Father John’s Microbrewery in Bryan. “We had guys from 22 different fire departments coming in from as far as 50 miles away. You can talk about all the stuff going on in the world right now, but that was amazing! They had to inflate this big cooling shelters because it was so hot but they were all like ‘Happy to help ... It’s our Job ... No problem, this is what we do.’ That many people coming together at a moments notice, it’s the most touching thing about all this.”
Hufnagle was also impressed and issued a public statement via his Department’s Facebook page Thursday evening. “We would like to thank the surrounding departments for their help, as well as the citizens from our community who donated food and drinks to keep our firefighters going,” he wrote. “Today was a great example of what the community can do when we all come together and we at FFD could not me more grateful.”
Hufnagle on Friday said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, and as yet did not have a dollar amount of the damage. But no injuries were reported among the fire crews and none of the 200 buffalo and two horses that were in or near the barn at the time were injured, he said.
“Our next challenge is how to feed them,” Trippy said. “We need to buy a lot more hay.”
The Indiana fire departments came from Fremont, Auburn, Ashley, Hudson, Hamilton, Orland, Steuben Township, Salem Center, Metz, Kendallville, Stroh, Topeka, Albion, Howe and LaGrange and the Michigan departments called included Quincy, Lakeland, Camden and Reading. Steuben County EMS, Fremont Police Department, Indiana State Police, Steuben County Sheriff’s Department and Steuben County Emergency Management Agency also responded.