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'WE WILL REBUILD'

The barn at Coomer Farm was engulfed in flames within minutes Tuesday night. The farm is located just on the other side of the Delaware County line near Middletown.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

It happened in minutes.

Randall and Stephanie Coomer, owners of Coomer Farm near Middletown, were burning a small brush pile Tuesday night on their old silo pad, like they had done hundreds of times before.

They had the hose running nearby. There wasn’t much of a breeze and the flames were low. The couple went in to grab a bite of pizza and heard a loud “pop!” outside.

By the time they got back out to the yard, the whole side of their 100 year-old barn was on fire.

The couple’s entire flock of chickens and turkeys –more than 150 birds – were trapped inside.

Randall tried running into the building to open the coops, but the heat was already too much.

Within 30 minutes, the barn was gone. The Coomers lost every bird.

“We’re just kind of lost, to be honest,” Stephanie said. “It was so fast.”

The Coomers started raising poultry five years ago. Stephanie is from Florida originally, Randall is a New Castle native and a Marine Corps veteran.

They showed birds with the American Poultry Association. They shipped eggs and chickens across the country and even up into Canada, Stephanie said.

The Coomers were also involved with local 4-H. Stephanie served as a Horse and Pony Club leader in the past. The farm sold birds to local families or let kids use them as 4-H projects.

Stephanie said they had even donated meat turkeys before to area residents going through tough times.

Coomer Farm also educated the community to raise enthusiasm about backyard flocks.

Besides raising birds, Coomer Farm also had horses. The horses were able to escape the fire and are now with a family friend.

The fire took the Coomers’ horse trailer, their saddles and tack and their tools that were in the barn.

The fire was hot enough to melt some of the siding on the Coomers’ house, which is about 100 feet away from the barn.

Firefighters from Sulphur Springs, Salem Township, Cowan and Yorktown Fire Departments came out to fight the blaze. Salem Township Fire Chief Todd Lewis said the barn was already fully engulfed before the first unit arrived. The official incident report was not available as of press time Thursday afternoon. 

The blaze also stole the five years of dedication and hard work Randall and Stephanie had put into restoring the old barn in their spare time. Stephanie and Randall built all the chicken coops in the barn by hand. 

“Years of memories, hard work and things that will never be replaced,” Stephanie said. “It’s devastating ... It looks like a bomb went off. I don’t know any better way to describe it.”

The Coomers had just finished tarping the roof for the winter and were planning to get a new roof put on in the spring.

Because the building had a bad roof, the Coomers’ insurance company would not cover the building.

“We didn’t realize the stuff inside wasn’t covered either until we called them,” Stephanie said Thursday morning.

Stephanie set up a GoFundMe campaign online to try raising money for a new barn or trailer.

Stephanie’s voice cracked as she said, “A farm’s not a farm without a barn.”

Right now, the Coomers are focusing on cleaning up the debris. Later, they can turn their attention back to livestock.

Stephanie hopes to schedule some cleanup days soon where people can come together to help her and Randall, if they want.

“Somehow, we will make it through this,” Stephanie said. “We will rebuild.”

Donations can be made online at www.gofundme.com/coomer-farm-devastatting-barn-fire. People can continue to follow Coomer Farm on Facebook.