Fire destroys Main Street barn

RINDGE — A barn fire, which razed the structure to the ground on Saturday, started while the property owner was charging a tractor, fire officials say.

Eileen Pelto, who resides at 638 Main St., said Monday she had gone out to the barn to charge her tractor on Saturday evening, and left it hooked up to a charger powered by an extension cord from a nearby outbuilding, before returning to her residence to wait for charging to be completed. Reportedly, she checked the machine about half-an hour into charging, and it did not start, so she again left it to continue charging. It was not until she went to check the machine again, around 5:30 p.m., that she saw that the barn was on fire. Pelto was not in a position to see the backyard, she said, and when she first noticed a problem, the barn was already a total loss.

Director of Public and Life Safety and Fire Chief Rickard Donovan said Monday that Pelto had reported that when she first saw the fire, she saw the silhouette of the barn completely engulfed in flames.

Donovan said fire crews believe the fire to be accidental, but are unable to determine what the exact cause of the ignition was due to the total destruction of the barn. They believe the tractor to be involved in some manner, but what initially sparked the flames will likely remain a mystery, he said.

“Who knows what happened?” said Donovan. “I can’t point my finger exactly what caused the fire. We’re just going by what the activity was at the time.”

“Either the charger wasn’t right, or the battery was bad,” said Pelto, about the possible cause. The fire spread from the barn to cause damage to several Hemlock trees surrounding the property, but did not reach the residence, said Pelto.

“However, if the firemen hadn’t been so good and fast and efficient, it could have caught on fire,” said Pelto about her house. “They did a very good job, and I’m very thankful.”

Donovan said Rindge Fire crews were toned for the blaze at around 5:45 p.m., and were back at the station by 8:40 p.m. When fire crews arrived on scene, they initially upgraded the fire from a first-alarm to a second, said Donovan, because of the proximity of the trees and the house. However, it only took roughly 20 minutes to extinguish the fire, and at that time, the fire was downgraded back to a first-alarm.

Pelto’s husband constructed the barn between 25 to 30 years ago to house their daughter’s horse, said Pelto. But at the time of the fire, the barn was only used for storage, and no animals were kept there. Along with the lawn tractor, Pelto also lost some building materials that were stored there. She said she does not plan to rebuild the barn.

Rindge Fire Department was assisted by fire crews from Jaffrey and Winchendon, Mass., and Rindge’s fire station was covered by Fitzwilliam Fire Department.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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