NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) — Firefighters from several agencies could not save a building that burned south of Newton Thursday morning.

The fire was in the 5800 block of South Kansas Road, about five miles south of Newton. Newton Fire and EMS Chief Steve Roberson said that the smoke plume was already visible in downtown Newton when they got the call.

Roberson said the building was a barn, about 50-feet-by-50-feet and made of wood. It was used to store equipment like a skid steer, lawn equipment and a golf cart. No people were inside, and there were no injuries.

He said a family member was at the property around 9 a.m., and everything was fine until about 9:15.

“They heard some noises coming from the shed area, looked out, and they saw smoke and saw the sparks and immediately called 911,” Roberson said.

The barn collapsed, and fire crews had to dig through the rubble to ensure the fire was out. At noon, Roberson said he had a good idea of what caused the fire.

“Preliminary indications, based off the interviews with the first, with the reporting party … indicate … that it is directly tied to lithium-ion batteries that were in a golf cart and they were reportedly being charged,” Roberson said.

He said lithium-ion battery fires are challenging.

“We’re learning more and more about that each and every, every day with the green energy movement that’s happening,” Roberson said. “Electric vehicles, the lithium-ion batteries themselves are, can pose great hazard. They’re very volatile, burn at very high temperatures, and they’re very difficult to extinguish by conventional methods.”

Investigators later used the term “accidental” to describe the cause of the fire.

Roberson said it helps that Newton Fire/EMS has an auto aid and mutual aid agreement with neighboring communities. Fire crews from Walton, Whitewater, and Valley Center helped Newton battle the fire, while area law enforcement agencies assisted with traffic control.

“If we didn’t have auto aid, if we didn’t have mutual aid agreements with our surrounding communities we would be in a lot of trouble,” Roberson said. “We’re a municipal department. We do have a lot of county and rural properties that we protect, but you know you’re limited with budgets. You’re limited with apparatus and personnel. So, we rely very heavily on mutual aid, auto aid agreements.”

He said the auto aid agreements mean that when there is a structure fire in Harvey County, other surrounding fire departments are also notified at the same time so they can start responding.

“It’s all about getting an effective response on scene in an adequate time frame,” he said.