Burning barns increase local air pollution

TEMP ORARY November 17, 2011 0

Two barns on Trail Road in East Hanover, Pa. caught fire Nov. 4 around 1 a.m. Currently the fires have been extinguished, but the remnants of ashes and hot debris still pose major health issues for those in the surrounding area. When the barns were first ignited, the fire was the size of a football field and the glow of the flames lit up the surrounding area. The barns, owned by Tim Haldeman of Haldeman Farms Inc., were 60 feet wide, 320 feet long and contained 3,000 tons of hay and straw, according to wgal.com.

No one has been hurt, and it is stated in an article on ldnews.com that the fire is believed to be accidental. In addition, pennlive.com develops this idea and quotes police fire marshal Terry Carberr, saying that the root of the blaze will not be fully known until it is completely burned out and thorough investigations may begin.

According to wgal.com, Nov. 4, Grantville Fire Chief Saul Schomlitz said, “We had 15 tankers running this morning constantly, and every one of them dumped at least 10 loads.”

Schmolitz reported that at least 150 firefighters from Dauphin, Lebanon, Cumberland, Perry, Lancaster, York and Schuylkill helped control the flames, but the fire departments did not have the equipment to keep trying to put it out. Wisconsin Fire Department was one of the farthest away to provide aid, traveling 40 miles to help. As of Nov. 7, firefighters stopped attending to the burning barns and the barns are now left in the hands of Haldeman.

Environmental factors continue to be of great concern, as the ash can be smelled and seen by citizens of Dauphin County over a mile away. The article from ldnews.com points out that the state of Pennsylvania cannot test air quality unless arson is involved. The air is thick and foggy because of the ash and is hazardous to inhale.

People miles away from a fire can be at risk, explains an article from sciencedaily.com. In the article, Lisa Maier, M.D., said, “The smaller particulates are going to be carried downwind. Breathing the smoke will cause respiratory irritation, similar to that caused by air pollution.” As the fire burns, anyone near the fire will be exposed to carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases. The article lists symptoms of smoke inhalation, including irritation and burning of the throat and eyes. Dizziness and headaches can occur as well and long-term symptoms including asthma.

The barns are set on a hill, which poses a major problem because wind can spread flames quickly. Since the barns were filled to the top with hay, Haldeman believes the fire may have been caused by moisture. The barns are insured, but the hay is not. The damages are expected to total around $500,000, but Haldeman is just grateful his third barn is still intact. According to LDNews.com, Chief Schmolitz said, “This by far was the biggest [fire] as far as the magnitude of it. The fire in front of us when we got here – when you have two barns that size totally involved, it’s just unbelievable. We did everything we could in our power to save the third barn. That was our main goal, and that’s what we did.”

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