SPENCER TOWNSHIP — An early morning fire that required the response of five fire departments destroyed a large maintenance and storage facility at County Line Farms Tuesday.
According to Maple Valley Township Fire Chief Dan Kain, firefighters were dispatched to a report of a pole-barn fire at 13202 22 Mile Road in Spencer Township, two miles south of Trufant, at approximately 6:45 a.m.
Kain said his department was first on scene, but upon arrival, a fire at the main storage facility of the milk distribution company was already fully involved.
“When we got here it was fully engulfed, basically a defense fire,” he said. “So we set up defensively and started calling in mutual aid from departments to help us get it out.”
Kain’s department received aid from the Spencer Township, Lakeview District, Montcalm Township and Sand Lake fire departments.
Kain said firefighters had difficulty battling the fire due to the lengthy and problematic process of filling tankers with water from nearby creeks.
“Our biggest problem was getting water established on scene,” he said. “We had to break through the ice in the creek in order to get to the water for our tankers.”
Spencer Township Fire Chief Chris Lange said two refilling stations were established at nearby creeks, one on 22 Mile road and another at Maston Lake Drive.
According to Lange, the cause of the fire is unknown at this time, though he added that it is not considered to be suspicious.
“We’re just trying to sort through everything right now, but it’s too hot to get to most of it,” he said. “The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time. We don’t believe anyone was on scene when the fire started and no one was injured.”
According to Lange, the overnight accumulation of more than four inches of snow made it difficult for firefighters to arrive on scene in a timely manner, as several roads in the area had yet to be plowed as of 7 a.m as firefighters made their way to the scene.
“It was difficult getting to the fire due of the roads,” he said. “It’s very tough with these massive trucks, our maximum speed was probably 45 miles per hour. With (the roads) not being plowed, that was just another problem for us to incur.”
Once on scene, Lange said there was no saving the storage structure, however, he commended the firefighters on scene for preventing the fire from spreading to the nearby company office trailer.
“They did an extremely great job getting here on these treacherous roads,” he said. “And they did a great job knocking down the fire, saving the office building next door.”
County Line Farms Owner Paul Smith, who awoke at home to a phone call about the fire, said he has no idea what could have started the blaze.
“I’ve farmed here all my life and we’ve been hauling milk for the past 15 years,” Smith said. “I have no idea what could have started this. There was no welding or cutting going on yesterday. Our heat is supplied by waste oil and an outdoor burner, so it wasn’t a heater.”
According to Smith, the company, which collects milk from area dairy farmers and distributes it to processing locations, employing about 35 to 40 workers, will continue to operate despite the fire.
“We’ve got to keep moving (because) farmers’ milk has to be picked up,” he said. “There’s no suspending the business, milk has to be picked up everyday. The trucks are out there right now, they just don’t have a place to be serviced at this time.”
Smith said his business is insured, but the contents of the storage facility included three semi trucks as well as a new milk tanker valued at $60,000 and other supplies, all lost in the fire.
Smith said he couldn’t place an estimated dollar amount on the total lost in the fire.
“There’s just so much stuff in that building, I don’t know,” he said.
Rockford Ambulance and Dean’s Excavation also assisted on scene.