The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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July 18, 2013

Barn fire leaves farm couple’s cattle homeless

MILL CREEK TOWNSHIP — The farmers and their beef cattle were not injured. But the midnight fire that destroyed Steve Mazon and Gayle McKay’s barn left years of their hard work in ashes.

Its cause remains undetermined, McKay said, noting that one of the firefighters said an electrical problem may have started the fire at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The first volunteer firefighter who arrived in his own vehicle helped Mazon save his largest tractor, although the wheels of the attached haybine were burning as they moved the equipment that cuts hay in preparation for baling.

Other field equipment – two tractors, two balers and a hay rake – was parked far enough away to escape damage from the fire that tore through the 38-by-42-foot barn.

“Steve built it 16 years ago,” said McKay, who has been his companion for 14 years. “He cut down the trees; he had a guy bring in a portable sawmill and cut the beams and boards and he built it by himself.”

The couple make quilts that are their primary source of income. The cattle were more like a hobby for Mazon, she said. He grew up on a farm and has always farmed in one way or another.

The couple’s home, about 200 feet from the barn, was not damaged by the fire, which was fought by firefighters from departments in Stoneboro, Sandy Lake and Sheakleyville.

“They were wonderful,” McKay said of the volunteers who spent much of the night on Mazon’s 25-acre farm.

When the sun rose, the couple ran a hose from the house for water for the Hereford-Angus cattle and erected a makeshift electric fence to keep them confined for now.

Mazon and McKay have insurance on their house but not on the barn and that makes it likely that the cattle may have to be sold.

“You can’t have little ones without a barn,” she said fighting back tears, and you can’t store square bales without one. We’re in day one after the fire, so it’s hard to know.”

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