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Fire destroys Upper Salford barn, damages attached apartment

No injuries reported; one apartment "uninhabitable"

Fire crews from around the region spent much of Saturday battling a fire at an Upper Salford farm property that destroyed a barn and heavily damaged an attached garage.

No injuries were reported in the fast-moving blaze, which quickly engulfed a hay-filled barn on the property and then spread to adjacent structures.

"I've never seen [a fire] move so fast in my life," said Cathy Burgmeier, a former Upper Salford firefighter who lives in an apartment on the property.

Burgmeier said she was alerted to the fire late Saturday morning by a neighbor who saw smoke coming from the barn when he left his apartment to get in his vehicle.

"I saw the smoke and thought, 'This doesn't look good,' and went back inside to get my cell phone," Burgmeier said.

By the time Burgmeier came back outside, she said visible flames were coming from inside the structure.

"By the time I called 911, it was fully engulfed," Burgmeier said.

The barn is "totally gone," said Upper Salford Fire Chief Paul Schneider. Schneider said the Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the possibility that the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

"The owner told them that everything that was in the area where they were looking was storage and nothing was connected [to electric power]. At this time, the cause is still undetermined," Schneider said.

According to Burgmeier, the barn was "stuffed" with hay, old farm equipment, and other miscellaneous storage.

A rented apartment above the attached garage was rendered uninhabitable by the fire, Schneider said.

"I don't know if they're going to tear it down or repair it, but there's a lot of structural damage on one side," Schneider said.

Numerous county radio reports indicated that fire crews were having difficulty getting adequate amounts of water to the fire scene near the intersection of Old Skippack Pike and and Schwenksville Road.

"The wind was actually our friend at this fire.  It was pushing the fire from the back to the front, which really helped protect some of the exposures around the back side and the main house," Schneider said.

An additional concern for firefighters was the presence of a reportedly full underground fuel oil tank beneath the barn.

Traffic was snarled throughout the area Saturday afternoon as emergency responders from much of western Montgomery County headed for the fire, which wasn't "wrapped up" until about 8:30pm, Schneider said.

"We have to go back [Sunday] to put some water on a few hot spots, just to make sure they don't flare up again," Schneider said.

Schneider expressed gratitude to a demolition crew from Haines and Kibblehouse that arrived to tear down the remains of the barn.

"They did a good job," Schneider said.

Schneider said the Upper Salford Fire Company was assisted by fire companies from Lower Frederick, Schwenksville, Harleysville, Trappe, Perkiomen, Green Lane, Pennsburg, Tylersport, Skippack, Souderton, Towamencin, Worcester, Upper Frederick, Sanatoga, Trumbauersville, and Milford. Ambulance companies from Green Lane, Harleysville, and Lansdale also responded, as did North Penn Goodwill.

Smoke from the blaze was reportedly visible in Franconia, Towamencin, and Limerick.

Earlier story and updates below.

Update 2:11pm: More than 2 1/2 hours after crews arrived at the scene, the fire has not yet been declared under control.

Initial story below.

Fire crews on Saturday afternoon continued to battle a fire at a Upper Salford farm property.

No injuries were reported in the fast-moving blaze, which quickly engulfed a hay-filled barn on the property and then spread to an adjacent silo.

"I've never seen [a fire] move so fast in my life," said Cathy Burgmeier, a former Upper Salford firefighter who lives in an apartment on the property.

Burgmeier said she was alerted to the fire late Saturday morning by a neighbor who saw smoke coming from the barn when he left his apartment to get in his vehicle.

"I saw the smoke and thought, 'This doesn't look good,' and went back inside to get my cell phone," Burgmeier said.

By the time Burgmeier came back outside, she said visible flames were coming from inside the structure.

"By the time I called 911, it was fully engulfed," Burgmeier said.

Burgmeier said the former farmhouse on the property, which includes four apartment units, seemed unaffected by the fire. A fifth apartment above a garage on the property, however, appeared to have sustained some fire damage.

According to Burgmeier, the barn was "stuffed" with hay, old farm equipment, and other miscellaneous storage.

An additional concern for firefighters was the presence of a reportedly full underground fuel oil tank beneath the barn.

Numerous county radio reports indicated that fire crews were having difficulty getting adequate amounts of water to the fire scene near the intersection of Old Skippack Pike and and Schwenksville Road.

Traffic was snarled throughout the area, including a reported one-mile backup on Sumneytown Pike (PA 63) in both directions approaching Shelly Road.

Smoke from the blaze was reportedly visible in Franconia, Towamencin, and Limerick. Fire crews from as far as Lansdale and Sanatoga were called to support local fire crews at the scene.

Patch correspondent Keith Heffintrayer contributed to this report from the scene.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the municipality where the fire occurred as Lower Salford.]

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