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Fire Chief: Electrical short caused barn fire at fairgrounds

An aerial view of the aftermath of a barn fire at the St. Joseph County Fairgrounds Saturday. Centreville’s fire chief said Tuesday the cause of the fire was an electrical short on a power pole. (Photo courtesy Todd Haifley)

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

CENTREVILLE — An electrical short was deemed to be the cause of a fire that destroyed Barn 42 at the St. Joseph County Fairgrounds Saturday.

Centreville Fire Department Chief Dave Miracle said in a statement relayed by the fairgrounds Tuesday that the fire’s cause was a power line coming from a power pole to the barn’s weatherhead. According to Miracle, the power line shorted out, which caused arcing and sparking, and resulted in the roof of the barn catching fire. The high winds on Saturday played a factor in the fire too, Miracle said, causing the fire to spread quickly against the barn’s tar-coated roof.

The fire started at 4:11 p.m. at Barn 42 on the county fairgrounds, where several departments responded to the fire. It was put out in a little over two hours, with the barn deemed a total loss. Two adjacent barns, Barn 41 and Barn 43 suffered damage due to the heat from the fire. Two large trees and power/internet connections were also damaged.

According to the fire department, they estimated about $2.8 million of damage was done in the fire, including the building and the items that were stored in the building. According to the fairgrounds, approximately 26 boats and trailers were being stored at the time of the fire by a marina the fairgrounds partners with.

“It was a devastating loss for the county fair. The buildings and grounds are pretty much countywide-owned, so everyone should feel like they have an ownership in that. To have a loss of that magnitude is hard on everybody in the county, not just the fair itself or Centreville,” Miracle said in an interview Monday.

Fair Manager Christina Yunker said in a statement that the fairgrounds will remain closed until cleanup is finished, and that the goal is to “restore normalcy as quickly as possible” while also allowing for insurance inspections and assessments. The recycling event scheduled for May 2 is still expected to go on as scheduled.

“As we continue to process the loss of one of our historical buildings on the fairgrounds, we are continuing to be reminded of the memories that will always be in our hearts and the gratitude we feel for the amazing community we live in,” Yunker said in her statement. “Please know that we hear you and are also devastated. We are strong and will adapt and overcome.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or

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