Barton Orchards in Beekman plans to rebuild after fire

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BEEKMAN – The Midway Melt Ice Cream & Panini Shop. The scene. The farm stand and concession area. All gone.

The space that housed two bustling buildings in the heart of Barton Orchards has been reduced to blackened rubble. The fire destroyed a few vehicles parked next to the buildings, and several other structures on the site suffered heat damage, some with melted facings.

A day after a propane truck fire raged through the farm and forced neighbors to evacuate their homes, Peter Barton reflected on the damage, as well as the plan to move forward so families can still enjoy of their autumn adventures in the orchards. The farm is a popular destination for families from across the Hudson Valley who travel there for its attractions, including weekend festivals, apple picking, and the petting zoo.

“Right now, what we’re doing today is we’re sitting around saying, ‘OK, how can we still make this happen in a different way? ‘” Barton, the orchard’s owner, said Tuesday as the smell of burning debris lingered on the property. “We are very creative and I have great people here. So we come up with fantastic ideas. It’s just how fast we could move forward is the concern.”

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Barton is a popular spring and summer family destination, with frequent weekend events, live music in and out of its Tap Room, and a variety of pick-your-own seasons, highlighted by apple season. ‘fall.

Despite the fire, Barton announced plans to be open Saturday for those looking for apples and other crops, ranging from tomatoes and peppers to squash and cucumbers. It also, in a Facebook post, said its Tap Room and concessions would reopen on September 2, and noted that its Tree Top Adventures feature remains open. The Tap Room was not affected by the fire.

“We had something that was just out of control”

The fire started around 12:45 p.m. Monday when a Bottini truck driver was delivering propane.

“I actually saw the delivery truck stop,” Barton said. “Shortly after that I saw a huge white cloud of propane and saw the driver running. And I knew straight away once the driver ran away from the truck that we had something that was just out of control.”

Workers walked away from the fire and heard explosions, Barton said.

“What we were so concerned about, all of us, was the animal building,” he added, but staff and animals were all safe as firefighters scrambled to contain the flames.

In the Meadows neighborhood adjacent to the farm, Carolyn Brettholtz and her husband were at home with their son when “we thought something had crashed in our house. It really felt like something was shaking.”

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Fire at Barton Orchards

Firefighters from multiple departments in Dutchess County battle a multi-alarm fire at Barton Orchards in Beekman on August 22, 2022.

Frank Becerra Jr., Rockland News/Westchester Journal

They saw a plume of smoke coming from the orchard, she said, and a neighbor called 911 and was told to evacuate. A police officer then drove through the neighborhood, knocking on doors to tell people to leave their homes, she said.

“As we were standing on our porch and this was going on, we kept hearing smaller explosions, like every two minutes or so another explosion,” Brettholtz said. “So we start freaking out a little bit. So we were like, ‘OK, we have to get out of the house.'”

Brian LaSusa, who also lives in the Meadows, was home when his daughter’s fiancé called to alert him to the fire.

“I walked to my front door and looked out the door and sure enough, right behind my neighbor’s house there was a huge plume of black smoke,” he said. . “It was kind of scary.”

LaSusa said he went to a friend’s house before returning home later.

“We’re just happy to hear that no lives were lost,” he said.

Brettholtz said her family went to the Beekman Library, grabbed food and ran errands before they were allowed to go home around 5:30 p.m.

“It’s shocking to think what could have happened,” she said. “Where we live we enjoy Barton’s live music because we can hear it every fall. I feel bad for them.”

What was the propane problem?

Officials said the fire started after a propane truck leaked, but it’s unclear exactly how it happened.

Bottini said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by what happened at Barton Orchards, but we are grateful that there were no injuries resulting from yesterday’s very unfortunate accident. We would like to to thank all of the first responders and everyone who helped with the fire and kept people out of harm’s way Our hearts go out to the entire Barton Orchards family during this difficult time.

Firefighters deal with many incidents of propane tanks while people are grilling, but “this type of incident yesterday is very rare,” said Dutchess County Emergency Response Commissioner Dana Smith.

“In a situation like that, one of the things you want to do is cool the material as quickly as possible,” he said. “Propane in its liquid form is very stable and easy to handle. When heated and expands into gas, it can be very problematic. It can even explode.”

The Beekman fire department “did a really good job with that,” Smith said. “It could have been much worse. They managed to contain the fire.”

As he learned about the next steps on Tuesday, Barton said “it’s amazing” to see the outpouring of community support from residents and businesses offering to help.

“That’s what makes the Hudson Valley so special,” he said.

Matt Spillane covers breaking news throughout the Hudson Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MattSpillane.

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