Fire destroys three farm buildings

SPRINGFIELD – Fire departments from Sleepy Eye, Springfield, Comfrey and Darfur fought a three-building fire Saturday and Monday at the Jim and Cindy Hillesheim farm on Brown County Road 100 in rural Springfield.

“A big barn with a tremendous load of hay was totally engulfed when we got to the farm shortly after about 4:30 p.m. Saturday,” Sleepy Eye Fire Chief Tom Moldaschel said.

Firefighters got additional help from the Heiderscheidts – Larry and Todd on their back hoes and Lowell on a bulldozer, Moldaschel said.

“It (a dairy barn, pole shed, and straw shed) went pretty quick,” said Dave Hillesheim.

Jim Hillesheim said the fire was God’s way of telling him he was spending too much time in the dairy barn, and it was time to get out of that business.

“I plan to build a new barn and raise cattle and steers,” Hillesheim said. “Firefighters, neighbors, friends, and relatives all came to help and did a tremendous job.”

The Hillesheim children grew up in the dairy barn that was nearly a century old.

“I think I’m all cried out,” Cindy Hillesheim said. “It was great to get so much help from family and friends that came to help. They even brought us food.”

The Hillesheims’ old dog “Buddy,” a part-husky, ran faster than they’ve seen it move in recent years when the fire began. The dog came back home.

“It’s good to have Buddy back,” said Cindy Hillesheim on Tuesday. “I’m finding more and more cats are still around too as time goes on.”

A Sleepy Eye firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and was transported to Sleepy Eye Medical Center by Springfield Ambulance. The firefighter was released from the hospital Saturday evening, Moldaschel said.

Firefighters fought the blaze that destroyed the barn until about midnight Saturday.

Firefighters returned to the farm at about 2:30 p.m. Monday when the fire rekindled. They remained at the farm until about 7:30 p.m. Monday, Moldaschel said.

“We dumped about 31,500 gallons of water, but that was just us,” Moldaschel said. “There were six tankers and six pumpers from all the fire departments. Water was hauled in from (nearby) Treml Lake, plus from fire hydrants in Sleepy Eye and Comfrey.”

Moldaschel said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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