A fire that caused $300,000 worth of property damage at a Ruscombmanor Township mushroom farm Wednesday night was deemed accidental in nature by State Police Thursday afternoon.
Giorgi Mushroom Company employees discovered the fire in the storage and utility room and dialed 911 at about 6:54 p.m. on Aug. 22. Ruscombmanor and neighboring fire departments responded, arriving at 108 Pine Lane at Hartz Road to find heavy smoke and fire venting from the roof and door.
The origin of fire was the storage and utility room located about the center of the block structure, according to the State Police fire investigation report released Aug. 23.
The cause and/or ignition source is an electrical malfunction or breakdown, according to the fire investigation report.
Firefighters from 15 companies battled the fire from about 7 p.m. until about 2 a.m. the following morning. There were no injuries.
'34 was initially dispatched which is Ruscombmanor, Blandon, and Alsace Manor. I believe Chief 8 came on location and called it in a working fire right away and she called for more equipment,' said Scott Oxenreider, volunteer with the Exeter Fire Company at the scene on Wednesday night. 'We needed water; there's no water here.'
According to, Oxenreider, there were about 15 companies called out including tankers from Ruscombmanor, Blandon, Fleetwood, Oley, Exeter, Virginville, Leesport, Alsace Manor, Lower Alsace, Mt. Penn, and Central.
'Many companies were called for tankers, some were called for manpower, and some were called to set up auxiliary fill sites,' said Eric Fox, Assistant Fire Chief for Ruscombmanor. The area was blocked off from all directions to enable the tankers to move freely to and from sources of water needed to battle the fire. Gary Yoder, volunteer for the Oley Fire Company, said that although there was a pond next to the farm, during the summer months, it's a little difficult using ponds as a source because of the possibility of algae clogging the intake. A tanker can hold anywhere from 1,800 to 3,500 gallons of water.
'We were one of the last ones; we brought our tankers here just for water. They said it was a good fire coming through the roof. I'm going to be dumping my fourth load,' said Chris Schaeffer, volunteer for the Eastern Berks Fire Company.
'A lot of these guys are probably on their sixth, seventh, and eighth ,' added Schaeffer's partner, Scott Kauffman.
The mushroom farm looks like a small and simple structure from the road, but according to a volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, the cinder block houses are usually built into a hill and are three stories high. Trays of mushrooms are stacked in rows with planks between them serving as a walkway; one misstep and you could fall two stories.
According to Fox, the majority of the fire was fought from the exterior.
'Nobody was hurt. There were two workers here and they were evacuated when the first fire personnel got here,' said Fox.
According to Fox, the center three or four houses had damage and he felt the entire crop of mushrooms would suffer damage as well because of having to shut the power off. The whole stretch of houses had crops growing. He said that mushrooms had to be kept at the right temperature-they're very sensitive.
It was around 10 p.m. when additional heavy equipment was called in to remove some of the roof so they could make sure the fire was completely out.
Fire crews were on the scene until about 2 a.m.
Kutztown Area Patriot editor Lisa Mitchell contributed to this article.