BY ERIC MANN
The owner of Affolder Implement Sales in Berne, Greg Milholland of Decatur, said this morning that two-thirds of the building was destroyed by fire on Monday night and he estimated the overall loss at more than a million dollars.
"It was a sickening sight," Milholland said of his feelings upon reaching the scene along US 27 at the south edge of Berne during the fire and seeing the raging flames, which were fed by an explosion of a propane gas tank, a broken natural gas pipe, and 2,000 gallons of oil stored in 330-gallon containers.
Although the damage is severe, Milholland said he expects the business, which opened around 1930, to be ready for business by December 27. The firm has 14 employees.
He also is gratified that the showroom and parts room are intact and that the firm's office records were saved, Milholland said. Those parts of the building were saved, he noted, because a firewall worked as designed and prevented the spread of the blaze.
He expressed great thanks to the firefighters from five departments in Adams County who not only responded quickly, but succeeded in preventing a much worse catastrophe by cooling down a pair of full 250-gallon fuel tanks only about 20 feet away from the structure. One of the tanks holds gasoline and the other holds diesel fuel.
Milholland said he was told that the fire departments poured 92,000 gallons of water on the fire.
He added that the wind direction helped keep the flames from those two tanks and said the mild temperature was a benefit to the firefighters.
Aside from the large-scale structural damage, the losses included six full-sized farm tractors, three smaller tractors, six multi-use vehicles, and two all-terrain vehicles. The firm's mechanics also lost all their tool chests, plus other tools.
Milholland said power was restored by Tuesday and telephone service will be reconnected today.
He has worked at the Affolder business since 1974, bought into it in 1976, and eventually became the owner.