Intense blaze destroys Sheffield barn; horses flee safely

This article has been corrected to reflect that several fire departments from across Southern Berkshire County assisted in the fire.

SHEFFIELD -- Firefighters from three states spent more than two hours on Monday morning trying to rein in a fast-moving fire that consumed a large wooden barn on Hewins Street.

No one was seriously injured in the blaze, and five horses inside the barn escaped safely after someone ran into the barn and released them before the fire spread. A Canaan, Conn., firefighter suffered a broken finger.

Firefighters originally thought they could contain the blaze, which was reported at 7:39 a.m., but within 3 minutes of their arrival, the fire erupted into a full-blown inferno that threatened a carpentry shop across the street and another home 100 feet south of the barn. All the structures are owned by the Hewins family.

"When I got on the scene, it wasn't real big," said Sheffield Fire Chief Rick Boardman. "I thought we might be able to knock it down quick. There was a small fire downstairs, but then it got upstairs. There was too much fuel for the fire. Once it got up there, it was a ball of fire."

Ten fire departments from New York, Connecticut and those from the Southern Berkshires were called to the scene with water tankers to fight the blaze, as ice as think as two feet rendered local ponds useless.

Once firefighters realized the blaze couldn't be contained, they focused on protecting the surrounding structures, Boardman said.

With winds up to 9 mph, firefighters had to spray water on the shop, where both the door and plastic vinyl trim on the roof was melting because of the intense heat.

"Once we saw the shop was in jeopardy, we had to put our focus on that," Boardman said. "At one point [a firefighter said] he thought [the fire] looked like a tornado and it was spinning around."

While the fire was under control by 9:37, firefighters stayed on the scene until the late afternoon to attend to the hotspots. The entire structure was destroyed, said Boardman, who declined to provide an estimate on the total damage.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, but Boardman said it could have possibly been an electrical fire caused by a water heater in the barn.

To reach John Sakata:

or (413) 496-6240.

On Twitter: @jsakata


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