Fire decimates rural Traer barn

A pile of burned rubble and twisted metal is all that remains where Dick and Joanne Rickert’s machine shed/shop used to stand including Dick’s office (center). The structure was destroyed in a fire that took place Tuesday, August 31 on the Rickerts’ farm north of Traer. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

A fire broke out in the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 31 in a machine shed at Dick and Joanne Rickert’s Thunderbird Farms on P Avenue north of Traer.

“We got the call at 4:09 a.m. Tuesday from the homeowner,” Chief Tyler Sell of the Traer Fire Department said. “By the time we got there it was burned beyond the point of saving.”

No other buildings were damaged in the fire and there were no injuries, Chief Sell said. The structure sustained heavy damage and is a complete loss.

“I loved my shop,” Dick Rickert said Wednesday morning while standing next to a massive pile of burned rubble south of his home.

Rickert and his wife moved to the farm on P Avenue in 1970 he said. At the time there was just “one little shed.” Through the years Rickert built onto the shed twice — the last addition taking place in the 1990s.

A Tama County Assessor’s photo from May 2015 shows what Dick and Joanne Rickert’s machine shed/shop looked like prior to the Tuesday, August 31 fire which left the entire structure a total loss.

Rickert kept his office in the machine shed and stored memorabilia, a couple of classic Ford Thunderbirds, and other farm equipment inside.

Asked if he had any photographs of the structure from before the fire, Rickert pointed toward the rubble pile and replied, “Yes, tons of pictures, they’re in there.”

Rickert said thankfully there were no tractors inside the structure at the time of the fire — and no one was hurt. But the loss is still a significant one for the Rickerts.

Stretching along the entire north side of where the structure used to stand, Rickert planted a windbreak of Norway spruce in 1977 — many of those trees are now burned, some completely.

“I hadn’t noticed the trees,” Rickert said Wednesday as he scanned the treeline. “I hope they make it.”

In addition to Traer Fire Department, Traer Ambulance also responded to the Tuesday morning call for service, Chief Sell said.

The cause of the fire is still being determined