Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, March 6, 2000

Fire destroys Neumann barn in Winsted Township

By Luis Puga

Winsted Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer said Tuesday's fire in Winsted Township was one of the largest to his recollection.

Jim Neumann's barn was destroyed in the blaze, located just east of Winsted on Carver County Road 20. The fire department received the call at approximately 2:28 p.m. and requested mutual aid en route.

Neumann said he was burning a two- by six-foot grass strip. After raking the area, he suspects that a spark must have ignited the barn. Seeing flames, Neumann ran into the barn to find it filled with smoke and quickly called 911.

Herbolsheimer said that when firefighters arrived on the scene, the fire had spread quickly and progressed through the west side of the building into the hay loft. According to Neumann, there were 750 bails of hay and 300 bales of straw located in the barn.

Herbolsheimer said the bales fed the fire, making it impossible to fight the blaze from the inside. Firefighters were forced to attempt to put out the fire only from the outside of the barn.

Firefighters did not clear the scene until 9 p.m. In all, four departments responded to the call for mutual aid: Watertown, New Germany, Mayer, and Waverly. Also, Litzau Excavating of Lester Prairie provided assistance in spreading the smoldering bales.

The fire eventually collapsed the structure of the barn, however, a building to the south of the barn was preserved.

Neumann said, "How to describe it? I'm sad and disappointed . . . shocked. It's like part of the family died."

Neumann added that his parents had raised 10 children on that property and much of the family had spent many hours working in the barn.

He said he was very impressed how the five departments worked together during the blaze. "They really formed a team," he said.

Herbolsheimer said the other departments' aid was critical, particularly in feeding water to the rural location. Without hydrants, firefighters were forced to set up pools of water for pumper trucks to feed water from.

He estimated that at one point during the incident, 10 pumper trucks were running back and forth, carrying from 1,000 to 3,500 gallons of water each. In total, he estimated the departments doused the blaze with about 110,000 gallons of water.

Uncertain as to what he will do next, Neumann said he has received a lot of support from family and others who have stopped by to express their condolences.

Neumann works at Nature's Rich Tree Farm and rents out most of the farm land on his property. He added that it was very fortunate that no one was injured during the fire.

Herbolsheimer warns that homeowners should be aware of the possibility of grass fires with the dry spring approaching. He added that the fire marshal has determined no need for an investigation of the fire.

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