Tractor believed to have caused Clark County barn fire

Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023

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On Monday night, in Winchester, many looking towards Combs Ferry Road could see flames rising.

Though property damage did result, there were no casualties.

While the investigation is ongoing, a tractor catching on fire is believed to have instigated a blaze that resulted in two barns catching fire – one suffering structural failure – and the Clark County Fire Department and Winchester Fire Department responding to the scene.

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“We arrived sometime right after 5:30 [p.m.]”, confirmed Clark County Fire Department Chief Steve Asbury. “What we had upon arrival [was] not one, but two barns on fire that were sitting right next to each other. The one was fully engulfed, and the other had just begun to start burning. It was on fire, but we were able to save it.”

The fire occurred at 4355 Combs Ferry Road, on the property of Charles “Shorty” Howard.

The Clark County Fire Department responded with three engine companies: one brush truck designed to counter wildfires and drive despite rough terrain in fire or rescue situations, one tanker fire truck, and other support vehicles.

It has also been confirmed that at least one engine company of the Winchester Fire Department responded to the fire for assistance.

“We extinguished the one burnt fire, and then we just stood by and controlled the other one,” Asbury said. “We probably put it out eighty percent, and then we had some hay that was in one corner, and we let it burn off the rest of the night.”

The Clark County Fire Department stayed at the location until approximately 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning before turning control back to the owners and leaving the scene.

“We were told that a tractor was on fire in the barn, and that’s what may have caused the [fire],” Asbury said. “It’s under investigation because we don’t know what on the tractor caught fire.”

He complimented the response by emergency personnel.

“They did an extremely good job considering it was near freezing temperatures at the time,” he said.

Howard, 72, was alerted to the incident by his grandson.

“I was at my house, and he went by my house blowing his horn and going down the road to the barn as fast as he could go,” Howard said. “I [ran] out on the deck. As soon as I [got] out on my deck, I saw the barn had flames coming out the top of it.”

Howard saved two vehicles and one separate tractor, though numerous other farm equipment – including the burning tractor, hay baler, seven lawnmowers, a corn planter, and more – have been confirmed lost.

Regarding the next steps, Howard – speaking one day after the incident – said there are still many uncertainties.

“Once I determine what the insurance is going to pay me… I’ve got to decide if I want to continue farming or just live out my life not farming,” Howard said. “I’ve farmed since I was fourteen years old. It’s going to be something not knowing what to do the next day if I ain’t farming.”

He is grateful that no physical injuries occurred.

“I’m glad nobody got hurt,” Howard said. “You can replace material stuff, but you can’t replace somebody’s life.”

Asked if he’d like to offer any other comment, Howard responded.

“Just pray for us,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”