Adding up fire losses at Red Fire Farm: $1M in damages includes barn full of supplies and memories

Sarah and Ryan Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, talk Tuesday about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild.

Sarah and Ryan Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, talk Tuesday about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild. STAFF PHOTOs/CAROL LOLLIS

Ryan Voiland, a co-owner of Red Fire Farm in Granby, walks through the burned greenhouse on Tuesday and talks about the damage from the fire of Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild.

Ryan Voiland, a co-owner of Red Fire Farm in Granby, walks through the burned greenhouse on Tuesday and talks about the damage from the fire of Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild.

Red Fire Farm in Granby taken on Monday after the fire Saturday afternoon.

Red Fire Farm in Granby taken on Monday after the fire Saturday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Sophia Cable, an employee at Red Fire Farm in Granby, works in a greenhouse picking cilantro on Monday morning after the fire Saturday afternoon.

Sophia Cable, an employee at Red Fire Farm in Granby, works in a greenhouse picking cilantro on Monday morning after the fire Saturday afternoon.

Stephanie Kennedy, the farm manager at Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks about the fire Monday morning that burnt a barn and green house Saturday afternoon.

Stephanie Kennedy, the farm manager at Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks about the fire Monday morning that burnt a barn and green house Saturday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Stephanie Kennedy, the farm manager at Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks about the fire on Monday morning that burned a barn and greenhouse on Saturday afternoon.

Stephanie Kennedy, the farm manager at Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks about the fire on Monday morning that burned a barn and greenhouse on Saturday afternoon.

Ryan and Sarah Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks with Representative Dan Carey on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild.

Ryan and Sarah Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks with Representative Dan Carey on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Ryan and Sarah Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks with Representative Dan Carey on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild.

Ryan and Sarah Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, talks with Representative Dan Carey on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Sarah and Ryan Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, talk about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild.

Sarah and Ryan Voiland, owners of Red Fire Farm in Granby, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, talk about the damage from the fire Saturday afternoon and what it will take to rebuild. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Red Fire Farm in Granby is seen on Monday following the fire on Saturday afternoon that destroyed the main barn and the farm stand.

Red Fire Farm in Granby is seen on Monday following the fire on Saturday afternoon that destroyed the main barn and the farm stand. STAFF PHOTOs/CAROL LOLLIS

By EMILEE KLEIN

Staff Writer

Published: 02-23-2024 9:43 PM

GRANBY — Days after a large fire engulfed Red Fire Farm’s barn and farm store on Carver Street on Saturday afternoon, farm staff slowly recounted the equipment and inventory lost in the fire, as well as the memories attached to them.

The fire caused an estimated $1 million in damages, according to co-owner Ryan Voiland.

Voiland was working at the farm’s Montague location when the Granby farm manager called to tell him that the roof of the barn was ablaze.

“We immediately dropped what we were doing and drove,” said Voiland, referring to himself and his wife, Sarah, who runs the farm with him.

When the pair arrived in Granby at around 1:30 p.m., Voiland said what was left was flames and “wreckage” beyond repair, with about 75% of the barn “burned to the ground.” The fire was reported under control several hours later, according to the Granby Fire Department, but Granby Fire remained on fire watch well into the night.

In addition to Granby, the four-alarm fire brought in firefighters from South Hadley Districts 1 and 2, Belchertown, Hadley, Bondsville, Palmer, Ludlow, Ware, Chicopee and Westover Air Reserve Base. Officials from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Department of Fire Services and the Massachusetts State Police Fire Investigation Unit also responded. The Amherst Fire Department provided station coverage and Shutesbury provided a tanker truck.

Ryan Voiland estimated the lost contents of the century-old barn, including signs, tools, potting soil, irrigation equipment, boxes and pallets, deer fencing and display coolers, added up to about $170,000 worth of material.

The building is insured, but Voiland is doubtful the insurance money will cover the cost of rebuilding the barn and replacing the lost inventory and tools.

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Beyond the capital loss, the barn signified over a century of Red Firm Farm’s history. Built in the late 1920s after a lightning strike burned the former barn down, it was constructed with beams made of local American chestnut, a once-common tree species prized for its timber that has since been largely wiped out in America by a fungus.

Voiland said he worked with his father on the barn when he first bought the property in 2001. He spent hours hauling manure out of the basement and chipping away at layers of solidified pig-pen bedding. His father helped him with plumbing and renovations that same year.

“To see all your hours and hours of work burn up, it’s heartbreaking,” Voiland said.

The building itself was full of memorabilia, including photos of the barn during its construction. Voiland’s wife and farm co-owner Sarah Voiland noted the 30 years of wooden signs for the farm store, like the “pick your own vegetables” sign, were lost in the fire.

“We lost all the cool things people have made since 2001, like the wooden signs,” she said. “I remember the people who made them. I loved that part the most.”

Voiland said photos and videos of the fire show the blaze started in the center of the building, away from the propane heater and walk-in refrigerator’s compressor. The only mechanical systems in the center loft were the lights, leading Voiland to think an electrical issue started the fire.

The official cause is still unknown, and a joint investigation by Granby Fire Department and Office of the State Fire Marshal is ongoing, said Fire Chief Michael O’Neill.

Farm manager Stephanie Kennedy, who lives in the house next door to the barn, said she watched the flames engulf the building within 13 minutes.

“We were lucky it was windy. The fire was blowing away from the house. If it hadn’t it might have been a different story,” she said.

Kennedy said the staff had begun to take inventory of the supplies in the basement of the barn in preparation for the spring growing season. She remembers what was lost in waves.

“There was nothing super vital [in the barn] that we don’t have in another location,” Kennedy said. “We have everything we need to keep on track.”

The farm’s tractors had moved out of the barn before the fire, and most of the winter produce for community supported agriculture (CSA) shares is kept at the farm’s Montague location. Without their farm store, Red Fire Farm staff are considering hauling out Voiland’s childhood farm stand from his house to continue their winter CSA farm shares and potentially sell spring vegetables.

However, the Granby farm has no cold storage at the moment, and the produce won’t last without some refrigeration.

Ryan Voiland said he plans to continue growing produce for the winter community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm shares and “reconfigure something temporary for the spring.”

“One way or the other,” he said, “we want to try to keep doing what we can do in terms of providing organic produce for the community.”

Voiland organized a GoFundMe for the farm on Saturday, available at bit.ly/42LFacT.

Reporting from news intern Aalianna Marietta was used in this story.