2018-10-10 / Front Page

Rufenachts Grateful For Community Support After Sunday Barn Fire

by Mary Huber
Special to the Buckeye

A large barn on the farm of Richard and Darlene Rufenacht burned down, early Sunday morning, Oct. 7. The top photo shows the view from St. Rt. 2, looking north. The bottom photo shows the debris, looking east from the driveway.– photos by Mary Huber A large barn on the farm of Richard and Darlene Rufenacht burned down, early Sunday morning, Oct. 7. The top photo shows the view from St. Rt. 2, looking north. The bottom photo shows the debris, looking east from the driveway.– photos by Mary Huber Normally Richard Rufenacht, rural Pettisville, gets up at 4:30 am.

But Sunday morning, Oct. 7, “this nudging told me I needed to get up” a little earlier, he said.

“You need to get up. You need to get up now,” he heard the voice say.

“I don’t want to get up,” Richard said to himself.

“Rich, you need to get up,” the voice said. “You won’t make it to church” today.

“That was God,” Richard said, tears welling in his eyes.

“So I got up, and I went in the bathroom. I was getting dressed, and I heard this BOOM– a humungous boom.”

He thought maybe there had been a car accident.

“I looked out the bathroom window... nothing. Just everything was normal,” he said.

“So I got dressed and stepped out the garage door.

“The whole north end of my barn was on fire. (Flames were) already going through the roof.”

The fire destroyed the barn and its contents on the farm of Richard and his wife Darlene, who live on State Route 2 just east of Co. Rd. 19.

Richard fumbled through his pocket to find his cell phone to call 911.

“Then they couldn’t understand me,” he said. “They kept calmly asking me, ‘What? Where are you at? Who are you?’

“I got through that, and then I ran into the barn.”

Saving The Animals

Richard has been a dairy farmer for more than 42 years.

He had 55 milk cows, dry cows, bred heifers, and small baby calves.

“There was probably close to 90 in that barn,” he said.

“I heard it raining at 4 (am). The cows are outside all night, so when it rains, they’ll come in.

“And they would’ve never came in through there if that was on fire, ‘cause they’d have to come in from the north (where the fire was).

“So they were all in the barn, crowded clear up to the south end as far as they could get.”

He had to open up the holding pen gate and “let all the dry cows, heifers–everything, get all mixed up, and get ‘em out,” he said.

“So I got all them out, and they went out fast. They were heading south, out into the pasture toward the east.

“But there was so much smoke, I opened up another wire and put them out to the north pasture. They went clear out to the north end and stood there and watched.

“And then I let all the calves out. There was no power in the barn, so the electric fence wasn’t working. So they just kind of wandered off.

“They wandered about a mile and a half away from home,” heading toward Wauseon.

“Just five of them,” Darlene said.

“People...were hunting through cornfields (for the calves), and flying drones and everything, and I said, ‘People. They’re on the Rails For Trails. They’re heading to Toledo, and people are not going to know what these are,’” Richard said, laughing.

“Nobody believed me.

“And guess what they did? They were on the Rails For Trails. Just a nice Sunday afternoon stroll.

“It’s ironic,” Darlene said, “because they ended up at” Jerry Richer’s house.

Richer buys cattle from Rufenacht, and they’re good friends.

The Richers “have a long lane off of (Co. Rd.) F to the south that goes up over the Rails For Trails to get to their house,” Richard said.

“And these calves walked down the Rails For Trails and seen his calves and walked right up there. Jerry said he opened the gate and they walked right in.

“I had people hunting for hours for these calves, and nobody could find them.”

“Jerry had come here... he knew that we were hunting for them,” Darlene said. “He didn’t have them yet. He went home, and a half hour later, he said, ‘they’re here.’”

“He said, ‘You won’t believe this,” Richard said.

“I said, ‘What?’

“The calves are here. I’ve got them penned up,’” Jerry told Richard.

“We didn’t believe it,” said Darlene, “because they had been hunting for so long. It’s like, who planned that, and that it would work out that way?”

“Had them all before dark,” said Richard.

The Rufenachts don’t know how the fire started, but the fire marshal was supposed to come out yesterday, Tuesday.

“Things could have been a lot worse,” said Richard. “We could’ve had half-burned animals that you would’ve had to kill.”

Also, the wind was blowing toward the house, Darlene said.

“When the fire department did get here,” Richard said, “the first thing I said to them, was, ‘Don’t let the house burn down!’

“When they got here it (the barn) was totally engulfed. But nobody got hurt,” and the animals weren’t hurt.


“We’re so thankful,” said Darlene.

“So many good people in this community,” said Richard. “We’re fortunate to live here,” his voice catching.

“This is a wonderful community,” said Darlene, “and farming community, also. We had a farmer from Edgerton that came and offered help.”

“I was told today our church (West Clinton) was empty yesterday because all the farmers were over here,” said Richard.

“It was overwhelming. The neighbors, the farming community, the friends of our boys– that helped too, that our boys know a lot of farmers and have a lot of young friends and they were all here” helping.

“Food showed up” for both fire crews and them, she said.

“Cattle trailers and stuff, and (people) set up gates (to funnel animals into the trailers)– everything was just flying,” Richard said.

“But it was just amazing that gates showed up,” said Darlene.

“They asked for an excavator– an excavator showed up. We were turning stock trailers away, because we had many. For that many animals? That’s amazing.

“This community is amazing.”

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