GARNER — A barn on the vast Bagwell Farms property off Benson Road burned to the ground Wednesday morning.
A Garner Volunteer Fire and Rescue unit on its way to a training class saw the smoke off Benson Road in southern Garner at 8:03 a.m. before it was reported. By the time a truck arrived, the roof had already collapsed.
No one was hurt in the fire; tools, a heavy-machinery backhoe and 300 bales of hay were the only items in the structure.
(The barn) was just like that before they got there; they just put some water on it, Garner Battalion Chief Steve Williams said. The roof was gone.
Harold Bagwell, who owns the barn, nearby house and surrounding 150 acres, said the smoke was also what attracted him to the scene about 100 yards from his house, and then saw the fire truck racing toward it.
Dont have a clue (how it started), Bagwell said.
It would be hours before smoke stopped billowing from the ruins. Hay bales, once lit, are basically impossible to extinguish, firefighters said. Water generally cant get through to the highly-combustible, dense, lit material within the bales without evaporating in the heat.
We could dump it in that pond over there, that would be the only way to put it out, Williams said. It burning up is the best thing because theres less to haul off. You cant put hay out, especially 300 bales.
A little over an hour after arriving, several firefighters were largely just watching the bales burn as they waited for heavy machinery that could pull the bales out and tear them apart so they could be extinguished. Overall, firefighters spent about four hours on the scene.
Meanwhile Wake County has launched an investigation into what started the fire, as is standard procedure. Even while the hay still burned less than two hours after firefighters arrived, inspectors walked around the inside of the barn on the side away from the hay bonfire, looking around the charred space. A backhoe partially covered in soot stood nearby, with tires and anything not made of metal melted or burned away.
Blackened support timbers stood straight up in rows on the perimeter, but no longer supported walls or a roof. Mangled siding that had apparently comprised the walls was mostly strewn about the ground around the barn.
Bagwell formerly owned Crenshaws TV & Appliance chain, which was based in Raleigh. He also has been a real estate investor around the Triangle for decades.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland