Freeman fire among four crews called to Steve and Ginger Waltner farm
A late-afternoon fire that roared through eight hog barns lined in close proximity to each other on the Steve (Twix) and Ginger Waltner farm southeast of Freeman last Friday could have been much worse had animals been inside the buildings.
“We’re grateful nobody and no animals were hurt,” Ginger told the Courier in a Facebook message on Monday. “That was a blessing.”
Still, she said, the Jan. 5 fire that destroyed the barns is a major loss that the Waltners were still struggling to come to terms with.
“This has been so overwhelming,” said Ginger, who noted the insurance company was scheduled to have representatives on site Tuesday, Jan. 9. “I really don’t have any details on the cause; we’re just not sure what happened.”
Freeman firefighters and EMTs were among those called to the massive fire at the corner of 446th Ave. and 283rd. St. — that’s 9 miles south of Marion or 4 miles south and 7 miles east of Freeman — that could be seen for miles away.
Marion, the lead department that was dispatched to the scene by 911, also called fire departments from Parker and Hurley for mutual aid. Others on scene included Marion and Parker EMTs, as well as the Turner County Sheriff’s Office.
Freeman was dispatched just before 5:30 p.m.
Paul Rigo, an assistant fire chief, told the Courier that only one or two barns were on fire when Freeman was called.
“By the time we got there, six were completely engulfed,” said Rigo, who noted that a hallway connecting several of the barns helped fuel the fire that would eventually consume all eight. “I suppose it got hot enough that it shot down that hallway.”
Rigo said there was no saving the barns and that, per orders from Marion, firefighters simply had to let the fire burn some of its fuel out before tackling the flames.
“There wasn’t a huge urgency because there wasn’t much we could do,” he said. But Rigo said firefighters were closely watching the outlying area, including propane tanks on the west side, to make sure the flames didn’t spread. Once the fuel was burned out, firefighters broke into the barns to extinguish what was still burning.
Freeman firefighters were on the scene for three hours, Rigo said.
Ginger Waltner said she appreciated the response to the disaster.
“We are heart sick that the barns couldn’t be saved, but felt so grateful for the work they did to keep our house and other buildings safe,” she said. “We truly feel the love from our community. The pain is real. Time will heal.”