100-year-old barn destroyed by fire

March 12, 2014

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A large two-story barn in Cresson estimated to be at least 100 years old was destroyed by fire early Saturday afternoon.

The owner, Jack Farr, said that the 4,000-square-foot barn – just inside Johnson County – was being used to store lumber, metal, gym equipment and other items, but there were no animals inside. It was a wood-frame structure covered with galvanized tin.

He said there are two other barns, both smaller, on his property. But Farr, who owns the nearby MotorSport Ranch in Cresson, explained, “It was more than just a barn. That was the Taj Majal of barns. It was magnificent.”

He said it had survived “hailstorms and tornadoes” before being taken down by the flames.

“It’s a real shame. It survived quite awhile.” said Farr, who said his residence on the property is about 95 years old.

Neighbor Christopher Cornwall said he was driving back home when he saw the smoke from the fire.

“You knew that it wasn’t just a grass fire,” Cornwall said, noting that windy conditions worked against firefighters.

There were no injuries.

Farr said that late that morning, his 13-year-old son had been playing with a road safety flare that started a small grass fire near the barn. His son sprayed water on the burning grass and thought it was out, but it was smoldering and rekindled about 2-1/2 hours later. Farr went into the barn, saw flames in the upper deck and ran to find a water hose.

“In 30 seconds, while I ran and got the hose, it had a flashover in the ceiling and the whole thing went up in flames,” Farr said. Farr said a large, hollow tree about 70 feet away from the barn caught fire inside because of the extreme heat but firefighters were able to save it. He said the tree is about 75 years old.

“I’ve never torn down any of the structures out here. It’ll be missed,” Farr said of Cresson’s former “Taj Majal.”

He said the large barn had been a hangout for a hoot owl, which is now homeless. He mentioned that the barn was also a place frequented in the past by a now-deceased animal with a strange look that some people referred to as a chupacabra. An Animal Control officer responded to a 911 call in reference to the creature. Farr said that the officer shot the animal dead in one of his smaller barns when it showed aggressive behavior while he was observing it.

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