Steven Henshaw: Farmers in northeastern Berks come to aid of fellow dairyman in rescue of 42 cows from burning barn

Mar. 14—A cavalcade of Topton-area farmers rescued 42 cows from a dairy barn during a three-alarm fire late Sunday afternoon in Longswamp Township.

The blaze at 244 Meadow Drive was discovered shortly after 5 p.m. by farm owner Wayne Hoover. He was eating dinner when he saw smoke coming from the barn, Chief Jason Robinson of the Topton Fire Company said.

At least a half-dozen farmers brought their animal-transport trailers to whisk the animals to safety. One cow died during the transport, the chief said.

The cows are being housed in a farm on the opposite side of Topton, Robinson said.

Other farmers lent a hand and, crucially, their equipment, including skid loaders and excavation equipment, to unload hay from the upper floor of the barn so firefighters could extinguish the fire.

"I wish everyone got along the way this farming community gets along," Robinson said of the collective effort.

No injuries were reported.

Firefighters had an uphill battle, Robinson said, because of the amount of straw bedding and hay stored in the barn and a lack of water supply. Their response was delayed by up to 2 1/2 minutes by a passing freight train that cut off their routes.

The initial tanker crews arrived fairly quickly, however, and helped save nearby structures, including three silos, he said.

State police fire marshal Janssen Herb determined the source was an electrical problem with a component of the milking parlor. Damage was estimated at $150,000.

Robinson said crews remained at the scene for more than six hours putting out hot spots.

The blaze was the latest in a series of recent Topton-area structure fires that have kept

firefighters busy.

On Feb. 28, a smokehouse malfunction ignited an adjoining shed in the Longswamp village of Hancock. On Feb. 23, also in Longswamp, a multi-bay detached garage went up in flames on Tower Road. That fire was blamed on wind bringing a nearby tree limb in contact with electrical wires

Robinson said all of the recent fires were investigated by Herb and deemed to be accidental in nature.