RANDOLPH - A massive fire that sent thick, black smoke billowing high into the air destroyed a historically significant barn Monday morning in Randolph.
The barn, located at 123 Jamestown St. and previously owned by prominent farmer Charles Rogers, went up in flames around 10:30 a.m. Upon arrival, fire crews found the structure completely engulfed by flames.
Quick action by first responders saved a nearby house.
OBSERVER Photo by Tonya Studley
Massive flames and smoke shoot up into the sky as a morning fire in Randolph destroys a building. Numerous fire departments were summoned to the blaze, which is believed to have destroyed at least three vehicles and partially damaged two nearby structures.
"The big thing was to save the residence," said Don McElwain, Randolph fire chief. "When we arrived we started spraying the house."
McElwain noted strong winds pushed flames toward the residence, but firefighters were able to prevent the massive fire from spreading.
Cattaraugus County fire investigators have not officially released the cause of the fire. A family member who lives on the property, though, said investigators believe a piece of machinery in the barn may have started the blaze.
Heat from the fire was so intense, siding on the Faith Bible Chapel next door partially melted. A church spokesman said the building sustained minor damage.
Property owner Tammy Finch stood outside Monday as firefighters doused water on the barn. Crews from Randolph, East Randolph, Little Valley, Kennedy and Conewango were dispatched. The Leon Fire Department was placed on stand-by.
Finch said the barn housed two cows and two horses. Her husband, Robert, also worked on vehicles part-time in the front of the structure.
It is believed all animals escaped the fire. At least three vehicles, meanwhile, were a considered a complete loss. The charred remnants of a truck could be seen in the debris, while an SUV parked outside received heavy front-end damage.
Finch said she was devastated by the fire, which destroyed a piece of Randolph history.
"It's just heartbreaking," Finch said. "This barn has been here for so long and means so much to the community."
According to Sandy Brace, chairman of the Randolph Historical Society board of directors, the barn once belonged to Rogers, a local farmer who owned a sprawling block of land in the town. The barn destroyed Monday was believed to have housed younger cows.
"It was a big dairy farm. It was just huge," Brace said. "Rogers owned it for years and years. He was a good farmer."
Historians note Rogers sold the land in bits and pieces more than 35 years ago, but the area remained well known for its historical importance.
"That barn and house is part of the original settlers, per se," said Randolph Supervisor Dale Senn, also a member of the Historical Society. "Of course that generation of people are gone, but the history is still there."