Barn, vintage motorcycles go up in flames

By Jason Hawk -

A century-old barn loaded with vintage motorcycles burned to the ground Sunday night on Old Middle Ridge Road in Amherst Township.

Two neighbor children spotted the flames and ran to tell the property owner, said Amherst fire chief Jim Wilhelm.

“They went out there, they looked, and it was too late. They called 911 and by the time we got there, the whole thing was going,” he said.

Dried out over the course of more than 100 years, the three-story barn’s wood went up so violently that firefighters couldn’t even tell where the fire had started. Wilhelm said it had no electric or gas service and no appliances that could have sparked the blaze.

Inside, however, were 30 to 35 motorcycles, from dirt bikes to vintage models.

The former owner, who passed away in the past couple of years, had been a member of the Penton Owners Group and was a collector of Penton bikes, Wilhelm said. There’s reason to believe that among them was the very first BMW that Amherst legend John Penton had ever raced in an enduro.

The chief estimated structural damage at $60,000 and damage to contents at $20,000 — that figure, used for statistics collected by the state, does not reflect the value of antiques.

Well over 100,000 gallons of water were used to douse the flames over the course of three hours and firefighters cleared the scene after 11 p.m.

They returned shortly after 3 a.m. when the fire rekindled deep with rubble that at first they had not been able to clear.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk