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Posted on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

Barn fire west of Ann Arbor kills more than 300 animals, including horse, steer, rabbits and chicks

By Cindy Heflin


Smoke rises from remains of a centennial barn at Scio Church and Parker roads after a fire destroyed it Wednesday and killed more than 300 animals.

Melanie Maxwell |

Robin Welshans and other family members huddled together in the driveway Wednesday afternoon wiping away tears and ash from their faces as firefighters unrolled caution tape around the smoldering remnants of their centennial barn.

Lying heavily on their hearts was the knowledge that more than 300 animals, including rabbits, chicks, a horse and a steer, had perished in the fast-burning blaze, which reduced the barn and everything in it to a pile of rubble.

The family took comfort in the fact that at least no one was inside the barn, at Scio Church and Parker roads in Lima Township, when the fire broke out.


Smoke billows from a red-hot barn fire in Lima Township as cattle stand outside Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of David Richard

But the loss still hurt deeply. Douglas Welshans said his wife met his daughters, ages 10 and 12, at school to tell them about the fire so they did not discover it when they came home on the bus. They cried, he said.

“That’s their life. We don’t do sports and stuff,” Welshans said.

The loss is compounded by the fact that he doesn’t have insurance to cover it, Welshans said. The animals and equipment alone were probably worth $50,000, he said.

Besides the steer and the horse, the fire killed about 200 rabbits, about 50 hens and 50 young chicks, Welshans said. His daughters had planned to show some of the rabbits and chickens and the steer at the Washtenaw County 4-H show this summer. The horse, a mare named Tina, was a gift to the girls from another family.

Besides the animals and barn, which was family-owned for 150 years, Welshans said he lost hay equipment as well as cages and other equipment used to show the rabbits.

The fire was reported, apparently by a neighbor, around 11 a.m. About 40 firefighters from Chelsea, Dexter, Scio Township, Manchester and Saline battled the blaze, which took about an hour to get under control, said Chelsea Fire Chief Jim Payeur. Firefighters were at the scene for about five hours, Payeur said.

“With that heavy timber construction … it’s very dense material so it takes a tremendous amount of water to penetrate,” he said. The cause of the fire still is under investigation, he said Wednesday evening. He didn’t have a damage estimate.

As Douglas Welshans pondered the future Wednesday evening, he wasn’t sure whether the family would replace the animals. “Possibly,” he said. “We haven’t really got to that stage yet.”

View Barn fire in a larger map reporter Danny Shaw contributed to this report.


Ben Lilley

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

You can donate online here

Krissa Welshans

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Yesterday, we set up an account for Robin Welshans at: University of Michigan Credit Union 4440 Jackson Rd. Ann Arbor, MI 48103 We also set up a P.O. Box for donations: Welshans Family P.O. Box 276 Dexter, MI 48130 Things need to be made payable to Robin Welshans. An additional account has been set up by one of Doug's sisters at: Chelsea State Bank under the name "Welshans Family Benefit" Someone donated a website to us and a paypal donate button should be there by this afternoon. The support has been overwhelming and the family is deeply touched. They are very broken-hearted, but the kindness of the community has, I think, helped them cope a little better. So, THANK YOU to everyone who has been willing to help. I really appreciate it and I know they do, too.

Jan Corey Arnett

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

The loss of this heritage barn and animal members of the Welshans family is a tragedy. The sorrow is felt by all who treasure and respect farm life and the unique relationship built both with the animals and the barn they call home. It is absolutely doable for a "new old" barn or barns to be located, dismantled, moved, and rebuilt where the lost barn once stood giving new purpose to another barn or barns that need a home. It is possible to have an old-fashioned barn-raising under the leadership of people who know the craft. One barn has been lost. Another can be saved and with it, the belief that good people make good things happen.

Susan Montgomery

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

Just because it seems to be getting buried in older messages... As Krissa Welshans noted, those who want to help financially can send a payment through Paypal to . Here's a chance to support your local farmers, let's help the Welshans get back on their feet. Maybe this information could get added to the main article itself?


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

Krissa, Thanks you for starting a web page and a play account for these strong folks. And really sad for the childrn who have been involved with 4H. I can't tell you how many times I have drivent out Scio Church Road and loved the views of all the barns, the ponds and the animals. That is a peacful way to spend a few hours. Sadly I moved to cincinnati last year to be near my familyand miss the opportunity to do that again. My heart and prayers are with all of you.

Dexter Bear

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

I am so sorry, my heart goes out to the family. I was just admiring that picturesque corner last weekend. :-(

Rohn Federbush

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Robin and Doug, Sorry to hear of your loss. Paul and I enjoyed our brief visit to the rabbits.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

That's simply horrible. My heart goes out to the family.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

Oh, these poor poor people, and their poor animals! I live on a farm too, and it is every farm owner's nightmare, that something like this goes wrong, and you aren't there to catch it, or there is nothing anyone can do. My heartfelt sympathy to all of you!


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

I unfortunately experienced a tragic barn fire where my family and all of my friends lost our horses. It's true, the insurance co usually won't insure a horse unless it's a show horse and worth a lot of $. I would like to offer one suggestion the family may want to explore. When the barn where we kept our horses burned we had a great deal of belongings there (this is a way of life make no mistake about it and my heart is so heavy for you Welshan family) and our homeowners policy covered a lot of our belongings, such as saddles, riding boots, etc. It may be worth exploring with your insurance co., what, if any of the contents might be covered under your homeowners policy. We did not even live on or near the property where we kept our horses and they covered a great deal of very expensive items that were lost in the fire. I don't know if this would apply here, but I hope this is somewhat helpful. Again, I am so so sorry for your loss.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

We have a much smaller barn, but my AAA rep. told me just two days ago that they would only cover maintenance items in it like lawnmowers, tillers, and similar equipment. The barn is just a 50 year old pole barn structure, but he would insure it because of the type of construction I suppose. He said they would not insure any of our trees, but if one fell on the barn or house they would pay for having it removed.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 10:41 a.m.

My thoughts and prayers go to the family for their lost. Insurance may rebuild a barn, but it cannot bring back the animals that were lost.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 6:39 a.m.

Awful news, such a terrible loss in so many ways. My condolences to the family, you'll get through this one way or another.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:42 a.m.

If the Amish can raise a barn in a day so should those of us making this website a nationally recognized award winning blogospherre. Lets get the commentators and staff to comitt to putting a barn up in a day.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

Any Ann Arbor City Council member would be most willing to let an Amish or two come swing a hammer or two to rebuild that barn. Heck, after seeing what they do? I think they can swing anything. Just a thought.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

This sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, local codes are usually only exempt to land that is officially Amish, thus routine code inspections would certainly slow the job down. Secondly, my personal bet is that most of the "regular bloggers" here don't swing too many hammers. Most laborers don't have time to blog about everyone else's business. I have distant connections to this family and will certainly be part of the "boots on the ground" working to rebuild when the family is ready.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 3:04 a.m.

Could you possibly go to Home Depot or Lowes (or any other lumber yard) and ask for donations? It would be nice to have a barn raising day like they used to. But I think there would be a lot of restrictions. And I'm no carpenter, that's for sure.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

treetown? I just mentioned that. I think there is an Amish community in the area. Might be worth merit. Have you seen them ever raise a barn? Wow. What skill.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Ann, there are no govt regulations that would prohibit a barn raising, as long as the barn is built to existing codes and all permits are in order.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

I agree--how can we make this happen?

Ann English

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Have you seen Amish men erecting a barn, or a video of them doing it? Unlike home construction workers around here, MANY men work on erecting a barn SIMULTANEOUSLY. I wonder if our state, county and local laws will permit many men to go to work simultaneously building a barn there in Lima Township.

Go Blue

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 4:07 a.m.

That said, make it a community effort and get many hands involved to make it happen. What's the first step in making this happen?


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:58 a.m.

Hmm, your idea has some merit.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:57 a.m.

This is just terrible, those poor animals! Why didn't the family have insurance to protect themselves? This is tragic.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

This was answered three comments above yours.

Paul Kersey

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

That's horrible. Sorry for your loss.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:06 a.m.

This is a very sad story, my condolences to the Welshens family. To those who are looking to donate to the family, I say kudos! This is what makes this community so special, and one of the main reasons that I read To those of you with snide, negative comments, well.... what else can I say?

Krissa Welshans

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:03 a.m.

I am Doug and Robin's daughter-in-law and wanted to explain why there was no insurance. They tried to get insurance on the barn, but because it was so old, it could not be insured. Help is very much needed. I just talked to Robin about the offers of help and they are very grateful. They have asked me to coordinate donations, so please stay tuned. If you'd like to e-mail me, I've set up a gmail account and paypal account. The e-mail is Thank you all for your support. It means a lot to all of us!


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.

Krissa, Thank you for taking up the task of raising money to help your in-laws. Afte reading all these comments and seeing the pictures I am just overwhelmed at their loss. I will certainly send a small contribution which may cover the cost of a couple of bunnies or chicks. I am 83 years old and lived off the corner of Scio Church and Maple Road 40 + years and am now in Cincinnati near part of my family but no country road nearby to take a peaceful ride in the country on.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

This is curious to me. I am so sad for the loss, truly horrible. I do not want to seem cranky or in any way attacking the family, I do feel their pain. But, I have a 120 year old barn with a shop in it. It took me some time but I found insurance to cover everything. It is not cheap, but it is cheaper than the 100k it would cost to rebuild and replace my equipment. I wish you and your family all the best in this terrible time.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:49 a.m.

I'm so sorry to hear about this tragedy. When I owned a farm it was my worst nightmare. Those poor defenseless animals. Please keep us posted about how we can help. I have a rabbit cage I can donate.

Krissa Welshans

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:16 a.m.

Please e-mail me at A rabbit cage would be very much appreciated.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

This is heartbreaking - the loss of the animals, the barn and its history, and the locus of many family activities together. Our hearts go out to you; I do know how much this hurts. To the nasties who have made cruel remarks, it's pretty clear you have no idea what the animals and the barn, especially one in the family this long, mean to a farm family. It is very, very expensive to insure an old barn like that; it's a tinderbox with its old, dry timbers. And as for the animals, not a chance. Please apologize for your thoughtless comments.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

Sorry to hear this. Condolences.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:24 a.m.

There are no buildings at that intersection, so I assume it's just the closest crossroads. Can we get a little more detail as to the location? My sympathies to the Welshans family.

Rod Johnson

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.



Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

The farm is on the northwest corner and sits back from Scio Church a good distance.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

Man oh man


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

I am so sorry for your loss. I would love volunteer to help clean up and rebuild. I am a strong supporter of local farmers. This is such a tragedy. When it is time to do this, please post if you know if they want help.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Isn't there an Amish community in the area? They are great for rebuilding. Loved watching them in Lancaster.

Krissa Welshans

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

At this point, they will not be able to rebuild because there was no insurance and they cannot afford to rebuild. I have set up an e-mail account, so please feel free to e-mail


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:11 a.m.

I'm a friend of the family. Right now Doug wants to get some hay for the left over animals, any unwanted cages for rabbits would be nice and maybe some rabbits as well. I think they're wanting to get another steer calf for there younger daughter to take to 4-h. So anything would be appreciated!

Krissa Welshans

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:12 a.m.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.

I have a couple of rabbit cages I would love to get rid of. One is very large, one smaller. Any chance the family is ok with posting an e mail address so I can send pics to see if they are interested?


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

Very sad, so sorry for your loss

Go Blue

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:51 a.m.

To those that ask in amazement why no insurance? Unless things have changed, insurance companies will not provide insurance to cover livestock and in the past that meant any farm animals including a horse. A show horse can be insured but it is costly so unless its a $10,000 horse, most owners are not in a position to buy the coverage. And why were all the animals in the barn? That's where they live and that is their protection again the weather and where they sleep. And try to get them out? In a rapidly moving fire, its impossible to get near the barn let alone into the barn. My question is how can we help? What can we do? This is a way of life that this family has lost and it takes many hands to help them start up again.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:36 a.m.

So sad. If I had a magic wand I would banish barn fires, my worst nightmare. Seems like there have been a lot of them the past couple of years.

Ann English

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

I've never driven through that intersection during the day, so I don't know if the barn was painted. If it was, I don't know if the paint would have penetrated enough to lessen the flammability of the wood. You, ypsicat, have gotten me thinking about one old unpainted barn I used to see across my road, that just fell down one day; the walls collapsed. Apparently it was an unused barn. You have me wondering what kept that barn from catching fire? Apparently THAT barn was an exception.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:35 a.m.

Dear Welshans family, I am so very sorry for your loss. You are in my heart and thoughts.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

To the Welshans family - I am so terribly sorry for your loss, and for your poor animals.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

Not everyone can afford insurance. I have no idea if that is the case here, but I do believe the family does not deserve us speculating why they didn't have any. My sympathies to the family. It's a tragic loss and we have enjoyed driving by that barn for many years.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

I agree. But then again with all that invested in the barn? I wold have had something insured against loss. Good luck to the rebuilding if there is one. No insurance is a risky thing.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

Wow, @Tesla, can you possibly be any more unpleasant? Perhaps you'd like it better if they raised their kids to be spoiled brats with SUV's living in a McMansion. A farm life is healthy way to grow up. Something you apparently missed in life.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.

I'm so terribly sorry for your loss - my heart breaks for you & your daughters. You're in our prayers.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.

Why weren't they (animals) released?

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

So, sad. Thanks for the news.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:09 a.m.

Most of the animals were out, the family was not home. The rabbits, chicks, and hens all lived on the bottom floor of the barn. The 2 steers were in a stall with a run in pasture attached and the one steer did jump the fence to get out. A neighbor tried to get the horse out but the horse wouldn't go. When an animal panics it tends to freeze up and that's what Tina did and the other steer well it was too late for him. I'm a family friend.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:03 a.m.

Ever seen wood from a 150 year old barn burn?? Good luck finding dryer wood. I'm sure that barn went up so hot and so fast no one had a chance of getting close enough to save those animals otherwise I am sure they would have.

Steve McQueen

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:05 a.m.

thats horrible... im very sorry to hear this...if someone takes up a collection for donations, please post it here.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

On the other story line there is a link for monetary donations.

Krissa Welshans

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

Please see my message below.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 1:27 a.m.

I am seeing if I can get my daughters girl scout troop involved with this, however I am unsure on how to go about it. I have contacted the troop leader. If we can do something, I will post it.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.



Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:01 a.m.

That's terrible news. Those poor animals.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

I was hopeful yesterday that the loss would not be this I'm crying for those poor creatures. Condolences to the family...