Paonia Fire Chief Mike Byers and his volunteer crew responded to a fire in a shed belonging to Stahl’s Orchards just outside of Paonia about 4 pm Monday afternoon. Twenty-one fire-fighters and seven trucks were involved in fighting the blaze, which took five hours to extinguish.
Byers says the fire began when a tractor that had been parked in the shed ignited due to a faulty generator or starter. The shed was used to store fruit packing boxes and in addition contained apple wood and what Byers called “a small amount” – less than 500 pounds – of ammonium sulfate used for fertilizer.
Byers said the fertilizer did not ignite.
Firefighters brought in a track hoe that happened to be located a few block away working on a Paonia road construction project to pull one side of the building away so they could get to the blaze. A fruit packing building directly adjacent to the shed was saved.
Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee said the County used reverse 911 calls within a short radius of the fire to warn neighbors. He said there was no reason to believe the fire was arson.