Fire, explosion destroy barn

An early morning fire that touched off a huge vapor explosion Friday had firefighters on their toes after it knocked some of them on their cans.

The blaze burned a Langley Road barn to the ground, taking with it a number of boat motors, a camper, other small machinery and two baby pygmy goats.

According to Fire District 3 Chief Don Smith, the 12:30 a.m. fire had already engulfed a barn at 5493 Langley Road when firefighters from the district's Langley, Clinton and French Road stations arrived. In high winds that fanned the flames away from a house on the property, firefighters used "defensive tactics" to keep the blaze under control. Smith said the barn was too far gone to risk district personnel with interior firefighting.

Several minutes into fighting the fire, an explosion inside the barn sent a mushroom cloud of flame into the sky and knocked a number of firefighters to the ground. A 55-gallon drum filled with solvent was the cause. It blew apart when the heat of the fire took it beyond its boiling point.

Smith said the blast was the death knell for the barn.

"It blew the roof off," he said.

Further complicating their efforts to extinguish the flames were several magnesium fires that started when the heat ignited a number of engine components. A stack of hay bales also required extra care -- Smith said firefighters had to break them apart to get at all the smoldering material.

Smith said the barn's owner, Debbie Armijo, was home at the time of the fire. In speaking with her, he listed the cause of the fire as heat from a heat lamp being used to keep two baby pygmy goats warm inside the barn.

Though he did not have a damage estimate this week, Smith said the losses are "not cheap." Other losses in the fire included a horse buggy and some tack equipment.

Smith said the explosion came as a complete surprise to firefighters. He said it was a "wake up" of sorts. No firefighters were injured by the blast.

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