Auction House Owner Suspects Arson In Destruction Of Vinita Barn

Thursday, December 30th 2010, 7:29 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

VINITA, Oklahoma -- Fire destroyed a barn at an auction house in Craig County, and the owner says it was arson. It happened at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, December 29 at the Farmers and Ranchers Livestock Auction on Highway 69 in Vinita.

The auction is a popular place for farmers and ranchers in northeastern Oklahoma. Now many are wondering just how big of an impact the fire will have on their business.

It's hard to hear over the wind but the crackle of the fire was still there Thursday. About 6500 bales of hay were destroyed at the hay barn Wednesday night.

"I never seen a fire like that before but it just looked like it was all in," said Vinita resident Marilyn Shoemaker. "They couldn't do nothing it was just all in black and smoke."

The fire took down a barn and overhang for cattle and the Farmers and Ranchers Livestock Auction. These pictures from Vinita native Amanda Gray give you a good idea of what firefighters were facing.

The flames took over the skyline and firefighters went head on against 25 mile an hour gusts of wind.

12/29/2010 Related Story: Vinita Firefighters Battle Hay Barn Fire Near Rodeo Grounds

"The barn was totally engulfed; it was gone," said Sale Barn employee Chris Wallis.

Wallis spent the day cleaning up while looking back on what was a busy and bizarre evening.

Dan Bewley, The News On 6: When you saw that what went through your mind?

Chris Wallis, Sale Barn employee: We need a lot of hay.

The barn helps feed more than 900 head of cattle every week. The auction is halfway between Tulsa and Joplin and a popular place for farmers and ranchers in northeastern Oklahoma.

John Smith is one of those farmers. He stopped by to check on the auction and see if there's anything he can do to help keep it open.

"Yeah, it's real important to the community," said Vinita resident John Smith.

"I know where there's quite a bit of hay for sale, and just stopped in to see if I could help them out in any way," he said.

The owner says he'll find more hay and plans to hold next Wednesday's auction as scheduled. But employees and their friends want to know how it started and are worried about missing a paycheck.

"Because it's pretty bad when people are making a living and they can't do that any more," said Vinita resident Marilyn Shoemaker. "Where's the honest people? Where's the honest people at?"

The owner is confident the fire was intentionally set because the barn does not have any electricity. The Craig County Sheriff's Office is investigating, but they did not return our phone call.