Cause of barn fire remains under investigation
The farmer believes someone is targeting animal facilities.
By MONICA BOND
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
LEAVITTSBURG -- One week after the blaze, smoke and wisps of flame still come from the rubble of the cow barn that was destroyed by a fire early last Friday; flies buzz among the ruins, and the stench is overwhelming.
David Klingensmith lost two barns and more than 50 cows last Friday. Thursday afternoon he was hauling away hundreds of pounds of burned, wet hay.
Klingensmith believes his fire was arson and thinks someone is targeting animals. He expressed his gratitude to other farmers and the community for the support they have given him.
"There's one sicko out there, but there are so many good people," he said.
Klingensmith said the doors on his cow barn, which he had carefully closed, were open at the time of the fire.
"There's no doubt in my mind someone was here," he said.
Warren Township fire chief Kenneth Schick didn't have any details about the possibility of arson.
"I'm just going to say it's a suspicious fire and it's under investigation," he said.
"We've run some tests, but it will be several weeks until we know anything," Trumbull County fire investigator Matthew Balut said.
Fire investigators are trying to determine whether Klingensmith's barn fire was an electrical fire.
"They are 99 percent sure it started in the feed room. Because of all the electrical stuff in there, they're working hard to rule out arson," Klingensmith said.
Schick said the fire investigators are at the farm every day but probably won't have results until next week.
Klingensmith said his cows were chained in their stalls at the time of the fire; some hanged themselves trying to get loose; a neighbor said others exploded.
"I can only speculate why someone would do that; it's sick. That barn was just a huge, huge, torture chamber," Klingensmith said.
Klingensmith also lost about 500 large square hay bales and his hay barn.
"We just put the hay in a week ago," he said. "The flames weren't shooting over there; it burst into flames from the heat."
Tom Andrella lives about a half-mile behind Klingensmith's farm, across a creek.
"The fire kept me awake most of the night," he said. "I kept hearing little explosions; I think they were shooting the cows."
Andrella said his daughter called to tell him it was Klingensmith's farm around 5:30 Friday morning.
"I was afraid of it -- it did cross my mind, but I didn't want to think of it," he said.
Klingensmith said a family one-quarter mile down the road from him lost a horse barn a few weeks ago, and there was another fire at a horse barn last Friday. He said he'd warn anyone with animal barns to be on guard.
"This guy seems to be really focused on animal facilities," he said.
Schick said the cause of the first fire was ruled undetermined, and Friday's fire went out on its own; he insisted there is no proof of arson.
"Friday somebody lit some grass on fire behind the barn, but it went out on its own," he said.
Balut said police are keeping a close watch on the area.
"If owners are concerned, we recommend you get up several times during the night and check the property," he said.
Klingensmith said the community has been very supportive, bringing food and offering to give him cows and hay.
"I just really appreciate the overwhelming support from people and other dairy farmers around here," he said.
Four of the cows killed didn't belong to Klingensmith. One was a 4-H cow entered in the Trumbull County Fair, and another belonged to a man who had to sell his cows but wanted to keep his best animal, Klingensmith said.
Klingensmith said most of his cows were bred on the farm, a herd he put together after switching to Holsteins when he took over the farm from his father.
"I prided myself that the herd of cows we had were home bred. Buying cows just isn't going to be the same," he said.
The farm will definitely continue, but Klingensmith said he may switch to hay or grain, or possibly a small beef farm.
"We're a pretty debt-free farm -- I don't know if I want to go deep in debt and take the big hit," he said.
Klingensmith's great-grandfather bought the farm in 1872. He lives on the farm with his wife, Lucille, who is a physical therapist with Forum Health, and his son and daughter, who attend Kent State University. His mother still lives in the old farmhouse.