Farmer loses tractors, tons of hay in blaze

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 25, 2003

Normally the Christensens didn’t keep their farm equipment in their hay shed, located 200 yards from 750th Avenue in Albert Lea Township, but they did Wednesday night &045; the night when the shed burned to the ground.

Larry Christensen said two tractors, 400 square hay bales, 82 round hay bales and four trailers burned with the 2-year-old shed.

He said he was feeling pleased Wednesday night. The crop was dry, in good shape and should have fetched a good price. Considering the possibility of rain, he and his son put the hay in the barn. He planned to haul it out in the morning for a buyer, so he left the tractors attached to the trailers.

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He doesn’t know what started the fire. He said it wasn’t electrical, because the fire didn’t start near any power outlets.

Christensen said he awoke about 2:30 a.m. Thursday when he heard his dogs barking. At first, he didn’t think anything of it. &uot;We have coons, and the barking usually dies down after a few minutes, but they were persistent,&uot; he said.

He said he looked out the window and saw the fire glowing from underneath the eve of the tin roof. &uot;It looked like someone put a line of lights on it and turned them on,&uot; he said.

In his half-awake state, he said his first thought was that someone had left the interior lights on, but even then he knew it wasn’t true, and he knew the fire would destroy everything in the barn.

By Thursday afternoon it was still smoldering. The tin and the support beams were a contorted mess. Tin siding lay on the ground with charred remnants of beams still attached. Along the concrete foundation, some poles pared down by the blaze stood burning like matches.

Larry’s wife, Judy, said the four fire departments that battled the blaze arrived quickly and told them to call if they were uncomfortable with the state of the still burning shed. In fact, firefighters came back Thursday night to foam some the blaze.

She said the insurance will pay for some of the damage, but said she and her husband aren’t sure how much the blaze will cost them. Luckily, the barn wasn’t near any livestock, and no one was hurt.

By Thursday afternoon, both Christensens had hardly slept. Larry spent much of the day looking for a tractor to replace the 1973 John Deere he lost; talking to deputies, firefighters and insurance adjusters; and planning for a new shed, which he needs for the rest of his crop.

Judy seemed to find comfort in the kindness of friends and relatives and the strength of her husband.

&uot;That’s Larry. He just faces things. He’s out there right now baling hay. He just keeps going.&uot;

(Contact Tim Sturrock at tim.sturrock or 379-3438.)