Fire destroys cattle barn in Avis

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette Jacob Heisey's barn was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on the scene Monday morning. Smoke billowed several hundred feet into the air. "It looked like a bomb went off," one firefighter said, recalling his thoughts when he saw the smoke from a distance.

AVIS — A barn along River Road that has been in the Heisey family for decades was destroyed within a matter of minutes by a large fire that erupted just after 8 a.m. Monday.

The blaze at the Jacob Heisey farm at 2339 River Road in Pine Creek Township sent a huge black column of smoke hundreds of feet into the sky.

“It looked like a bomb went off,” one firefighter said in describing the plume of smoke he saw off in a distance.

The entire building was engulfed in flames when firefighters reached the scene, said David Closs, Avis assistant fire chief.

The barn was filled with beef cattle and heifers. Most of them were rescued, rounded up in cattle trailers and reportedly hauled to another area farm the family owns.

For several hours, firefighters from more than a dozen communities pounded water onto the building from hoses on the ground as well as from the air. Avis’ ladder truck was put into operation soon after it arrived on the scene.

Once his cattle were rounded up and removed from the property, there was little else Heisey could do but watch helplessly as the structure went up in flames. At one point, he helped a firefighter by supporting a hose that was directed onto the fire.

A state police fire marshal visited the scene only to rule that the cause of the fire, which resulted in excess of $100,000 in damages, will remain undetermined.

Numerous tankers from as far as Beech Creek and Nisbet shuttled water to the scene from a hydrant on Henry Avenue in Avis. Firefighters remained on the scene until late in the afternoon only to be called back to the scene a little after 7 p.m. for a flare-up.