“I heard a loud crash, and thought lightning struck really close. I got off my computer and told my husband that I smelled smoke; so he ran out, ran back in and told me to call 911 and tell them our machine shed was on fire,” said Janet Jantzen, describing the lightning strike that sparked a fire north of Diller on Thursday evening. The fire consumed a machine shed and two classic tractors.
At roughly 8:30, lightning struck the Jantzen’s building, and within minutes the machine shed was engulfed in flames. When Ron Jantzen discovered the fire, he began moving as much equipment as he could out of the burning building as volunteers from Diller Fire and Rescue rushed to the scene.
“I just got in there and started moving stuff out as fast as I could,” Ron said. “My Peterbilt was in there against the wall, along with the 440 John Deere Tractor and the Caterpillar. The flames were coming through everywhere.”
Two classic tractors that Ron was working to restore were consumed by the fire: a 1950 Ferguson and a 1935 John Deere. He estimates the total loss to be around $15,000.
“He learned how to drive a tractor on that 1950 Ferguson, and he was going to restore it and give it to our granddaughter,” said Janet.
Janet is grateful for the help of Ray Rohr, who saw the flames from the road and stopped to help move machinery out of the shed.
“Ray Rohr stopped and saw Ron running around,” said Janet. “He came out and started jumping in vehicles and moving them out for us too.”
Jeff Hays, Rescue Captain for Diller Fire and Rescue, estimates that roughly 20 people responded to the fire from Diller Fire and Rescue, and that they were able to extinguish the blaze in just over an hour. He confirmed that a lightning strike was the cause of the fire.
“The fire didn’t spread to any of the other buildings, so we didn’t have to worry about that,” said Hays. “We didn’t have to worry about exposures too much, even though there is a little damage to the other sheds. If it hadn’t been for the weather, the fire wouldn’t have started. We’re just lucky that everyone who came is going home, that’s the most important thing. We lost some stuff, but we didn’t lose any lives.”
Janet explained that the fire could have been worse, as they had originally planned to be in Lincoln Thursday night to meet with friends, which is why she believes they would not have made it home by the time the fire started. She is grateful for the quick response from Diller Fire and Rescue.
“I just want to thank all of the firemen who came to help us,” Janet said. “They responded fast and got things under control quickly. Now, we just have to clean up and keep moving forward.”