Steel Building Devastated by Fire
West end demolition

Steel Building Devastated by Fire

I was going to write about the effects of a few inches of snow in Virginia (power outage, cars grounded, no water, etc), in combination with busy season debacle of the year (the discovery of hundreds of orders throughout the busy season hiding in the database).  I even had cute little pictures of things with snow on them.  Then, the unthinkable happened:  the steel building burned.

People were milling around Heartwood eating dinner when Fox ran in, reeking of burnt plastic. “Call 911, the steel building’s on fire.”  Mutters of disbelief and questions about the severity of the fire were left unanswered.  She continued, “I tried to walk in to see how bad it was, but I couldn’t see past the black smoke.”

Fire from the West End
Fire from the West End

I ran upstairs searching for the phone.  I related the details to the dispatcher, who informed me that trucks had been notified.  I stepped outside and observed a black cloud of noxious fumes filling the sky.  My gaze turned to the steel building, where smoke was pouring out of both sides.  Within minutes, flames were leaping out of each end.  Bibi observed that the shape of the Quonset hut acts as a very efficient chimney, ushering air in one end and out the other.  The resulting sound was a truly horrifying rush of air, the flames tearing through the contents of the building, punctuated by explosions.  I imagined all the tiny motors and gas tanks of all the machinery we’ve accumulated over 20 years bursting like popcorn.  We waited anxiously for a few larger explosions to come – namely the four oxyacetylene tanks and the air compressor.  Drawn by the horror and magnitude of the fire, many of us stood within sight, sometimes ambling closer till  we were reminded that the tanks hadn’t blown yet, and that when they did they could do so with enough force to knock down several brick walls.

Fire fighters arrive
Fire fighters arrive

Within 15 minutes, the entire side and top of the building glowed orange, with the fury of the flames visible through holes where fasteners had been.  Finally the fire department showed up, with two fire trucks and two other fire department vehicles.  Firemen with full gas masks and oxygen tanks begun unrolling their hose.  Soon, they started spraying the firey opening on the West side.  Streams of water vaporized in the pit of fire, a mere fly on the back of a behemoth.

Questions of whether or not we had insurance of any sort were answered – negatory.  We turned to one another, recounting the things of value going up in smoke – all of our 2013 catalogs, 6 new energy-star freezers, some full of seeds, some full of food, lots of other seed in storage, our community closet (aka commie clothes),  our prized wood shop, complete with a planer, band saw, saw-stop table saw, compound miter saw, drill presses, and lathe, the seed curing room, our weight room, the autobay, all of our appliances and extra furniture, and possibly our new station wagon, which we couldn’t move in time.

Fire fighters spraying the side
Fire fighters spraying the side
the next day
the next day
ashes to ashes
ashes to ashes
east end
East end
West end demolition
West end
the wood shop
the wood shop

For those of you who are familiar with the steel building, or who can infer from the name of it, the steel building was the last thing we were worried about losing to fire.  In fact, we were allowed to build our fledgling seed office closer to it than code usually calls for due to the lack of risk of fire.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. how awfull – my deepest sympathies – much love and best wishes to you all


  2. I am so sorry for this devastating loss. I’ll take the absence of reports of personal injury as confirmation that there were none. Of course the ultimate question: if the property was not insured, what does this mean for the business? I know you’ll recover; you’re a resourceful lot.

  3. Darla, you are such a good writer! It was interesting to hear about how the experience was for the Acorners who were present. Thanks.

  4. I wish I knew what to do to help! Sending love and spiritual support. I know you have the strength to get through this!

    Love to you,

  5. Oh my god! What a loss! I am so very sorry. I am so glad no one was hurt! Are there specific needs to address right now? Anything friends can do to help?

  6. oh NO! I am so sorry – – my thoughts of a quick healing and robust recovery go with you folks.

    EW 82-89

  7. Terrible. I am glad nobody was hurt.

  8. My heart is so heave after reading this. I can only imagine the emotional devastation you’re experiencing. I’m grateful no one was hurt. I wish I could do more but send you my love.

  9. Ohmygosh, I am so sorry for your losses, and so grateful nobody was hurt . I know this has far reaching implications for you folks , will impact you in so many ways. How can I help?

  10. What a huge loss for the community! Much love your way. I remember helping to build the steel building in my time at Acorn. It seems impossible that it was lost to fire.

  11. Oh how horrible. Many of us do not make the time to plan for such devastating emergencies. Some may want to reconsider buying insurance, costly as it is. So fortunate that no one was hurt. Let us know how to help: where to send stuff, organic/rare seeds, and/or cash…
    Loved the recent interview with Ira in CMag.

  12. so sorry to hear about this loss…..

  13. Oh my word. Sending so many prayers from here at Dancing Rabbit. What can we do to help you rebuild/recover the losses?

    -Amanda (going by my given name now)

  14. Hi there. How about posting a list with stuff you may need? How about some Ganas Clothing Store surplus commie clothes? Hugs to all, Jorge

  15. i am so sorry — and glad that you are community where your greatest resource is people and connections. So, while it is a great loss, it is not a devastating loss as it would be for a family. How can we help?

    love and peace, jim n’shana

  16. I’m so sorry. How can I help?

  17. Reading about the surreal loss of the steel building and it’s contents was truly heart breaking. Its good news that no one was physically injured. (right?) I know it’s only been a few weeks but I hope you are starting to recover little by little. I will keep my ears out for replacement workshop tools in the area and maybe bring some commie clothes when I hopefully come to visit again in the winter (if you are still looking for some then). And it’s true, Darla, you have beautiful writing voice. Lots of love from Guam,


  18. How can I help? I’m sorry sorry for all you all lost 🙁

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