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Pre-Emption Road barn destroyed by fire

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

Passing drivers respond to save dairy herd; Mennonite community begins rebuilding barn

GENEVA — Roughly 40 cows and two horses, with the help of passersby and Ontario County Sheriff’s Deputies, were removed uninjured from a large burning barn Nov. 11 north of Bellona.

The fire was reported at 2 p.m. at 5016 Pre-Emption Road (County Road 6), the farm and business of Wayne Shirk.

Passing drivers and Ontario County Deputies stopped to help rescue a herd of dairy cows and two horses from this fire Nov. 11 on Pre-Emption Road.

A portion of the barn was fully engulfed in flames when crews arrived but was extinguished by a massive turnout of firefighters from several departments in Ontario and Yates Counties. Other than the livestock, the barn was not occupied at the time of the fire. Shirk says he was in Herkimer when a neighbor phoned him to say his barn was on fire. 

Pre-Emption Road was closed for four hours between Reed and Kashong Roads as first responders worked to control the fire and clean up the scene. Geneva, Benton, Bellona, West Lake Road, Hall, Dresden, Yates County, Border City, White Springs, Stanley, North Road, and Penn Yan firefighters and Finger Lakes EMS responded.

Friends and neighbors quickly moved the 40 milk cows to the barn of another farmer who had just recently sold off his herd. Shirks says his family lost eight calves, one heifer, chickens, rabbits, and his children’s pony in the fire.  

Before the fire was completely out, the Mennonite community and other farm families were already helping with the rebuilding of the Shirk’s barn. They had made significant progress by the time of this photo on Monday.

By the next day, dozens of Mennonite farmers had arrived with tools and equipment to tear down what remained of the old barn and begin construction of the new one to take its place.

Criminal activity does not appear to be the cause of the fire, although it remains under investigation, deputies said.