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Barn fire in Darien contained but volunteer firefighter 'crisis' continues says Yaeger

By Howard B. Owens
sumner road barn fire darien

Strong winds, no fire hydrants, and the ongoing shortage of volunteer firefighters made today's barn fire in Darien a bit more challenging to fight, said Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator for Genesee County.

The fire was reported at about 8:30 a.m. at 2044 Sumner Road, Darien, a 9.4-acre residential parcel owned by David Keller that contained multiple barns and other out structures, all mostly built in the 1950s and 1960s.

Yaeger said an investigation found that the source of the fire was a fire started by the homeowners to the southwest of the barn that caught fire.  Yaeger said the wind changed direction, and embers flew into the barn causing combustible items in the barn to catch fire.

The barn was in disrepair, Yaeger said, and damage to the west side of the barn exposed the interior to the flying embers.

The fire spread and expanded quickly because of the wind, Yaeger said.

There were no injuries, either to residents or firefighters, Yaeger said.  There were no livestock or domestic animals involved in the fire.

Darien Fire was initially dispatched to the fire (follow the link for more photos).

Multiple tankers for surrounding departments, including Corfu, East Pembroke, and Alexander, were dispatched.  The tankers were necessary, Yaeger said, because that part of Darien does not have public water, and there are no fire hydrants in the area.

The need for tankers increases the need for volunteer firefighters, and those are in short supply at the start of a weekday workday, so getting enough manpower to the scene today was an issue, Yaeger said.

Darien Fire, in particular, has been dealing recently with a lack of volunteers.

The lack of volunteers, he said, again illustrates the crisis situation for local fire companies.

"It's still a real concern of mine," Yaeger said. "I applaud the City of Batavia Fire Department for being a real partner with us.  We've got to do something to increase the number of volunteers."

He said a lot of volunteers are aging out, and many who are showing up have been volunteers for 30, 40, or even 50 years, and they do what they can.

"They're still proud of their service to their communities, but we need a new message to bring out younger volunteers to join their ranks," Yaeger said.

Still, even with the challenges, the fire departments on scene were able to have half of a secondary structure that caught fire, as well as the rest of the structures on the property, including the house.

"The house wasn't damaged at all," Yaeger said.

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