A large storage barn for hay was destroyed in the morning fire. However, the attached dairy barn containing a large number of cows was spared.
Officials said no animals died or were injured in the fire.
The fire was during the calves’ feeding time, so they were bellowing, said neighbor Jim VanderMeulen, who came over to help.
Dairy cows munched away on fresh hay as a crane in the background moved what should have been their primary fodder, so the fire could be put out for good.
Firefighters were called to the family business at 5085 Garfield St., just west of 48th Avenue in Polkton Township, about 6:30 a.m. Workers discovered the fire — and their boss, Merle Langeland, called 911, said part owner and Merle’s brother, Marlin Langeland.
Flames and smoke could be seen for miles away.
“The flames were going pretty high,” said VanderMeulen, a 48th Avenue resident who used a garden hose to cool off metal stripped from the burned-up building. “Cars were turning off (I-96) to watch."
Four area fire departments — Coopersville, Allendale, Wright-Tallmadge (Marne) and Chester Township — were directly involved in fighting the fire. Several other departments provided tankers and covered the firefighters taken out of their own areas.
Tony Dolce, an Allendale firefighter who took over water command late in the morning, said more than 100,000 gallons of water had been used to fight the fire.
“The Marne tanker went to the hydrant at least five times,” he said. “That’s 25,000 gallons.”
The tankers switched hydrants mid-morning and were taking water from a hydrant on O’Malley Drive, near the Arby’s on 68th Avenue.
“That provided a good loop for the tankers,” Dolce said.
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department was called in to investigate the fire, which was believed to have started in the bales of hay stacked near the cow stalls, Marlin Langeland said.
“We figure it was the hay – self-combustion,” he added.
Langeland said there were more than 250 large bales of hay in the barn. Each bale weighed nearly 1,600 pounds.
Langeland said the hay is grown on the farm and the batch stored in the barn was baled about a month ago.
“There’s no more cuttings this year,” he said. “Hay is hard to come by with the drought — if you can find it.”
Langeland said they had another barn full of baled hay, but they probably will have to buy more.
“Obviously, (the fire) is going to impact us,” he said.
The loss of some of the stalls will also be a problem for a while.
“We’re going to be crowded,” Langeland said. “This spring, we had built a barn for overcrowding. We were good for a while. Looks like we're going to have a crowd again.”
Langeland said they milk 550 cows at the farm, and 50-60 of them were in smaller buildings attached to the hay barn on Wednesday, and had to be removed by employees.
Langeland's father, Lester Langeland, said he was hoping it was something minor when he got the call that there was a fire at the farm.
“I was coming down the road and saw the smoke," Lester Langeland said. "I knew it wasn’t something small. When I got here, it was totally involved.”
Lester Langeland said his father bought the farm in 1929, but the big wooden barn that burned Wednesday was built in 1906. He said it used to have the old-style barn boards on it, but those were eventually replaced with a metal roof and siding.
Lt. Brent Veldheer of the Coopersville-Polkton Township Fire Department said they were originally called to the scene of a chicken barn on fire. That barn didn’t burn, he said.
Veldheer said power was turned off temporarily until the main fire was knocked down. It was restored quickly so the fans in the chicken coops could be turned back on before it got too warm.
One of the other objects destroyed by the fire was an old ambulance that had been converted into a flatbed hay hauler, Veldheer said. That was pulled out of the building by a crane.
There was no immediate damage estimate available. Officials were uncertain of how much of the property was insured.
The fire is still under investigation.