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Blaze Devastates Vt. Farm; Fire Officials Still Determining Cause

  • Smoldering hay fills the footprint of a roughly 100-year-old dairy barn and an adjoining one-story barn, on the property of Mickey Appleton in Bradford, Monday, April 14, 2014. The barns, used mainly for hay storage, were destroyed by fire Sunday.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Smoldering hay fills the footprint of a roughly 100-year-old dairy barn and an adjoining one-story barn, on the property of Mickey Appleton in Bradford, Monday, April 14, 2014. The barns, used mainly for hay storage, were destroyed by fire Sunday.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mickey Appleton, of Waits River, top left, and friends Tim Palmer, of Corinth, bottom right, and Nick Spooner, of Topsham, top right, look over the remains of Appleton's in Bradford Monday, April 14, 2014 the day after it burned. Appleton keeps 26 Belted Galloway beef cattle that all escaped the fire with help from neighbors. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Mickey Appleton, of Waits River, top left, and friends Tim Palmer, of Corinth, bottom right, and Nick Spooner, of Topsham, top right, look over the remains of Appleton's in Bradford Monday, April 14, 2014 the day after it burned. Appleton keeps 26 Belted Galloway beef cattle that all escaped the fire with help from neighbors.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smoldering hay fills the footprint of a roughly 100-year-old dairy barn and an adjoining one-story barn, on the property of Mickey Appleton in Bradford, Monday, April 14, 2014. The barns, used mainly for hay storage, were destroyed by fire Sunday.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Mickey Appleton, of Waits River, top left, and friends Tim Palmer, of Corinth, bottom right, and Nick Spooner, of Topsham, top right, look over the remains of Appleton's in Bradford Monday, April 14, 2014 the day after it burned. Appleton keeps 26 Belted Galloway beef cattle that all escaped the fire with help from neighbors. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Bradford, Vt. — Harold Gravlin’s pit bull isn’t normally a barker.

So on Sunday evening when the dog started barking uncontrollably, Gravlin thought something might be wrong.

And, indeed, it was.

Gravlin, 46, peered out his home’s window to see the large barn on Appleton Farm engulfed in smoke and leapt into action.

“I tried to call (owner Mickey Appleton) and threw my boots on and headed for the cattle,” Gravlin, who rents one of two houses on Appleton Farm, said. “For some reason they kept running around and going right back into the smoke.

“I got them fenced in over here and got a couple bales of hay for them,” Gravlin said.

No one was injured in the barn fire and all two-dozen Belted Galloways — a beef breed of cattle — were unharmed, though Appleton discovered Monday morning that several had singe marks on their fur.

Fire officials have yet to determine the cause of the fire that burned the former dairy barn to the ground just after 4 p.m. on Sunday .

Ret. Bradford Fire Chief Todd Terrill, who was at the station Monday afternoon, said the Office of the State Fire Marshal has been contacted.

“I’ll tell you, it really makes you wonder,” Appleton said, pondering what could have ignited the barn on his family-owned farm, which sits off Route 25, just west of Exit 16 on Interstate 91.

The main portion of the century-old barn and an addition, which was built in 1965, held scores of 600-pound round hay bales at the time of the fire.

On Monday afternoon, clumps of singed hay littered the landscape where the barn used to stand; some with flames rekindling with each wind gust that blew through.

Thick white smoke rose from the rubble while passersby stopped on the shoulder of Route 25 to survey what was left of the farm, which four years ago was home to roughly 100 dairy cows. Twisted sheet metal rested in tall piles and charred wood and other debris were scattered around the property.

The metal debris clanged in the wind, while the cattle rested in a nearby pasture. Two concrete silos stood tall, largely untouched by flames.

Friends and family members stopped by the property Monday afternoon, most of them standing back and taking photographs.

“It is devastating,” said Lillian Appleton, Mickey Appleton’s sister. “At least they got the cattle out.”

Mickey Appleton, who is semi-retired, said he plans to rebuild a smaller barn for the existing cattle, but “probably” won’t totally rebuild Appleton Farm.

“I’m too old for that,” said Appleton, 70, who lives in nearby Waits River but owns the Bradford farm.

“They claim it was within minutes, the whole thing was gone,” Appleton said, while staring at the scene with little expression on Monday. He said he had “no idea” what sparked the fire. The dollar amount of the damages wasn’t known Monday evening.

Corinth Fire Chief Ed Pospisil arrived at the property Monday to survey the damage. He said the wind made fighting Sunday night’s fire a challenge, as it was shifting flames uphill into matted-down grass.

Firefighters made a conscious decision to focus on saving the neighboring farmhouse instead of concentrating solely on putting out the barn fire.

The farmhouse, which is rented out by a family of four, suffered water damage in the basement but was untouched by flames.

“The barn was already lost,” Pospisil said. “It is wide open, it isn’t cut into rooms — like cubicles in a house — so you can’t get in a room and stop it. It is wide open. There is plenty of oxygen and it takes off real quick, real, real quick.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

Related

Photo: Fire Aftermath in Bradford, Vt.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

As the 100-year-old barn owned by Mickey Appleton smolders nearby in Bradford in mid-April, Ashlyn Welch, 6, of Corinth, swings during a visit to her grandfather Harold Gravelin’s home. Gravelin was the first to notice smoke rising from the barn and moved the herd of Belted Galloways to safety as the barn was consumed by fire. ∎ Posted to the …