Courtesy: Pete's Greens - Pete's Greens was in the process of building an addition on the barn before the fire.
Craftsbury, Vermont - January 12, 2011
"It's one of the things that you imagine, but never believe it happening," said Pete Johnson, the owner of Pete's Greens in Craftsbury.
Just an hour after Johnson helped load up a delivery truck at 3 a.m. Wednesday, his barn was in flames.
"I noticed my window glow orange, and I looked out and the barn was totally engulfed in flames," he said.
Johnson could only watch his three-story storage barn burn to the ground. There was nothing firefighters could do to save it. The inferno made quick work of the 140-foot long barn. The flames shot well over 100 feet into the air and could be seen from more than 10 miles away.
"The roof was already down and the fire had already penetrated everything underneath," Craftsbury Fire Chief Walter Gutzmann said.
Pete's Greens is one of Vermont's largest vegetable farms. The fast-moving blaze destroyed several tons of storage crops and their vegetable washing and processing equipment, along with two tractors. The loss is valued at more than half a million dollars, and most of the food and equipment was not insured. The fire will also mean five of the farm's eight full-time employees will be laid off.
"It's just starting to sink in," Johnson said, "but it is a big loss."
And a loss to those who rely on fresh produce. The fire puts co-ops around the state, like the Buffalo Mountain Co-op in Hardwick, in a pinch.
"It will affect us pretty dramatically this winter," said Jeffrey Ellis of the Buffalo Mountain Co-op.
Pete's Greens is a farm that supplies organic vegetables to retail markets and those who pay upfront for a delivery of vegetables and products each week. The company says it will probably be several weeks before it can resume deliveries. It hopes to resume full-time operation in April.
"We usually get beets, some other root crops, salad mix, some unique crops... and cabbages that we won't have now," Ellis said.
"This is a lost we can't quite account for yet," Johnson said. "It's going to be big. It was part of Craftsbury village, this big yellow barn."
This is the second time the barn has burned down. Fire destroyed it in 1950.
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