A barn owned by Kenai residents Shawn and Connie Taplin caught fire and burned almost entirely to the ground early Friday morning. Nobody was injured, and all of the animals normally kept in the barn on Strawberry Road either escaped or were outside when the fire occurred.
Dispatch received a 911 call at 1:47 a.m. from Dianna Taplin, Shawn's mother who lives on an adjacent property. Woken by her barking dog, Dianna Taplin spotted what she later described as a "moderately small but fast-moving" fire.
According to Fire Marshal Gary Hale, an engine from the Soldotna Fire Station arrived on the scene 10 minutes later, at which time half of the barn had already collapsed. Due to the already extensive damage, incident commander Captain Lesley Quelland declared the fire to be a "defensive attack" as opposed to an interior one, meaning fighting the fire from within would be both pointless and unsafe.
The cause of the blaze is undetermined and the investigation is ongoing.
"When the dog woke my mom up, she said the power was out," said Shawn Taplin. "And when I got there a couple of minutes later, the utility room was fully engulfed and the rest of the barn was just starting on fire. So I can only assume that it was electrical."
Taplin said that CES strategically knocked down parts of the barn down to contain and control the flames. The Taplins' house remained untouched, located about 150 yards away.
"Due to the massive destruction of the existing structure, the remaining portions of the building were allowed to burn without fire suppression operations," Hale wrote in a press release.
The barn, originally constructed in 1956, had been expanded since them to house 9 horses, 1 breeding hog, and 1 sheep. Most of the animals were already out on some part of the Taplins' 65 acres of land, except for one of the horses, which was pregnant and penned in the barn waiting to give birth. Shawn was able to lead her out.
The hog also wandered into an enclosed area of the barn ("probably to get away from the smoke," Taplin speculated), but managed to escape through one of the walls with minor burn injuries.
Taplin said that CES managed to salvage a very small portion of the back of the 6,500-square-foot barn, which retains a roof and some stalls for the animals to occupy. He also reported that 3,500 bales of hay worth $40,000, a tractor worth $15,000, $10,000 in horse tack, and $15,000 in other miscellaneous tools were lost in the fire. The cost of the barn is not yet known.
"I do have insurance," Taplin said. "I've talked to them and I don't know at this point if they're going to cover it all or not."
"We're just happy that we got all the animals out safe and thankful for CES and the Kenai Fire Department as well," he said.
Karen Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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