Fire breaks out in Pioneer Village storage building
Posted 5/11/11 (Wed)
Disaster averted . . . Members of the Kenmare Fire Department
quickly contained a fire in a storage shed at Pioneer Village Saturday
evening. More than 20 volunteers spent Saturday working
to prepare the Village for its summer opening, but the last individuals
left about a half hour before the fire was reported. Most of the
damage was contained to the southeast corner of the building.
By Caroline Downs
Firefighters were called to Kenmare’s Pioneer Village Saturday night to extinguish a fire burning in a storage building located between the Norma Hall and the Bintz House.
Over 20 individuals, including members of the Kenmare High School FFA chapter and a group of AmeriCorps volunteers, worked at the Village on Saturday during the annual Join Hands Day, cleaning and preparing the buildings and grounds for the summer opening.
Within a half hour or so after Lake County Historical Society president Bryan Quigley emptied the trash, returned the garbage can to the storage shed and left the premises, firefighter Nate Condit spotted smoke coming from the building while driving on the Highway 52 frontage road.
Kenmare Fire Department secretary/treasurer Chuck Leet said 20 firefighters were on the scene by 6 pm, with two quick response trucks, the pumper and the tanker. “We took all four units, just in case of a problem with a hydrant out there or something,” he said.
The firefighters returned to the fire hall within an hour, after containing the flames to the southeast corner of the small building. The storage shed held several riding and push lawn mowers and hand tools for maintenance at the Village, as well as the golf cart used for handicapped accessibility around the Village’s exhibit buildings.
The wooden front of the building was damaged by the fire, but the metal sides and roof were not.
“We didn’t lose a whole lot, but I don’t have any hand tools out there right now,” Quigley said. “The fire burned all the wooden handles off.”
According to Quigley, most of the damage occurred to the front wall. Several stacks of wagonwheel parts in the shed, left over from the old Donnybrook blacksmith shop days, were charred.
“The building will need a good cleaning,” he said, adding that furniture stored there must be washed now. “But nothing of value was destroyed.”
The cause of fire was a mystery to members of the fire department and to Quigley. A fresh coat of linseed oil was applied to the front of the building Saturday as well as to the Norma Hall, immediately east of the shed. The building is not wired for electricity, but fuel for the mowers was stored in there.
The pans used to hold the linseed oil were placed in the shed to dry, but were not in contact with other items. Rags used to clean the linseed oil and other items that day were disposed of in the trash removed by Quigley.
“It’s a big question mark as to what started the fire,” Leet said, “but there’s absolutely no suspicion.”
“To our knowledge, there were no smokers out there that day,” Quigley added. “We have no idea what started it.”
He and Leet agreed the timing of the fire was fortunate. Leet mentioned the close proximity of the display buildings, especially the Bintz House immediately west of the storage shed, and the Norma Hall on the east side, with its fresh coat of flammable linseed oil.
“If this had happened in the middle of the night, it would have been a disaster,” said Quigley. “This is probably a good lesson that we need to be careful and that we’d better get a few fire extinguishers out there.”
A contractor was immediately scheduled to measure the storage building for a new front wall. Quigley expected the repairs to be completed within the next few weeks.
Pioneer Village is scheduled to open after Memorial Day weekend, as usual, and will host its popular Pioneer Day celebration on July 10th. Volunteers to clean and organize displays are welcome to contact Quigley at 701-467-3444.
tornado test sirens
Leet noted members of the Kenmare Fire Department will test the tornado sirens on Thursday, May 12th, at 7 pm.
“We know the whole system works,” he said, “but we want to know the tornado sirens are working properly.”
Kenmare residents should hear the sirens Thursday night. When the sirens sound at 7 pm, be aware this is only a test, and not an indication of severe weather.