Fire, one of any farmer’s worst fears, struck the Martens’ family farm, one of the largest organic grain producers in the nation, Saturday night, Sept. 23.
At approximately 10:45 p.m. Yates County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Hansen was returning home from a long shift when he passed the farm on Ridge Road in Torrey, and saw the main barns already filled with flames. Contacting dispatch and alerting owners Klaas & Mary-Howell Martens, Hansen’s call was joined by others seeing the massive blaze, including a passing airplane that called it in to Air Traffic Control in Cleveland, Ohio.
Trying to rescue livestock and equipment, Klaas was driven back by the intense heat. The barns had just been filled with the large round bales of hay and straw for the coming winter, fueling the fire even more than the timbers of the 150 and 100-year-old barns that were already awash in flame.
Explosions burst out from the fuel tanks and tires of the truck and equipment, but one massive blast is believed to have come from a large fertilizer hopper, with witnesses recalling a mushroom cloud illuminated by fire, and a shock wave felt in the village of Penn Yan.