CLINTON TWP — The owner of a landscaping business learned the hard way that high winds and burn piles can make for a dangerous combination.
The accidental wind-swept fire Tuesday evening caught hold of a large pole building at John Dennis Landscapes on Deer Creek Road and burned up more than $100,000 in property, said fire officials.
But Chief Chris Ballina of the Saxonburg Volunteer Fire Company acknowledged that figure could rise significantly.
“There was nothing left of the building,” he said. “It was bad.”
Lost in the blaze were 10 industrial mowers, a pickup truck equipped with a plow, skid loader, salt spreaders and numerous hand tools. It was insured.
Ballina said he was already at the station for business reasons shortly before 6:30 p.m. when the call came in for the fire.
“It came in as a grass fire coming close to a pole building,” he said.
Ballina and other volunteers hopped on their trucks and were there in a minute or so. Still, it was too late.
“There was black, heavy smoke so thick you couldn’t see,” he recounted. “It was through the roof.”
There was no saving the 40-foot-by-80-foot steel building.
Firefighters from Saxonburg and Penn and Middlesex townships in Butler County and West Deer Township in Allegheny County surrounded the burning structure and doused it with water until the flames and remaining hot spots were out.
Owner John Dennis told authorities that he and apparently some of his employees had been burning a pile of leaves behind the building earlier that day. He later left, believing the fire was out.
It wasn’t. Embers were still hot, Ballina suspected.