Madison
64° F
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy
Advertisement

Barn fire near Fort Atkinson kills over 20 cows

Published On: Feb 10 2013 03:34:04 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 13 2013 10:45:17 AM CST
Ehrke Farm fire bill ehrke farm barn fire cows dead cattle killed

Photo courtesy of Dale Schroedl

Fire Chief Michael Reel said at least 21 cattle died in the blaze on Ehrke Road Saturday. Several cows were saved and were being monitored by the farm's veterinarian Sunday.

TOWN OF OAKLAND, Wis. -

Authorities reported at least 21 cattle died in a barn fire that burned for hours Saturday on a farm about 30 miles east of Madison.

Fort Atkinson Fire Chief Michael Reed said the department received the report of a fire just before 3 p.m. Saturday.

Crews arrived to find the barn and two connecting structures at N3726 Ehrke Road in the Town of Oakland engulfed in flames, Reed said.

Farm owner Bill Ehrke told firefighters there were between 30-35 cattle inside the barn. The dead cattle toll may rise as they move through the rubble.

The chief said crews fought the blaze for hours and tried to save more animals but were unable to enter the barn due to a variety of safety complications including snow, cold temperatures and equipment in the barn.

"We spent an awful lot of time trying to suppress the fire and wet down the cattle," Reed said. "[Entering the barn] was too much of a risk with the load we had."

Reed said the scene was cleared just after midnight Sunday.

The big barn was a total loss, Reed said, though a financial estimate was not available. Parts of the two adjacent buildings were salvaged, the chief added.

Ehrke concurred with the fire chief. "I doubt very much if I'll be able to build that barn back," he said.

Reed said several cows did survive and are under watch by the farm’s veterinarian for minor burns and smoke inhalation. No animals had to be euthanized as of Sunday afternoon.

Reed said the fire remains under investigation and there were no theories as to what caused the blaze at this point.

The Fort Atkinson Fire Department was assisted by crews from departments in Cambridge, Deerfield, Edgerton, Helenville, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Milton, Palmyra, Rome, Sullivan, Waterloo, Watertown and Whitewater.

Ehkre got the news of the fire via a phone call from his son as Ehkre was coming back from the airport in Chicago following a vacation.

"He said something happened pretty bad," said Ehkre.

Making it even worse were the emotions involved.

"They're all registered cattle and they all have names, you know them all by name," reflected Ehkre. "And that's kind of hard."

The fire obviously marks one of the biggest setbacks of Ehrke's career.

Ehrke has owned the farm since Lyndon Johnson was president. He said he's had good years and bad, but this is something else entirely.

"If you saw the ad that they used with Paul Harvey for the Super Bowl, I think that kind of gives you an idea of what you have to think about," said Ehrke.

But, as that celebrated ad made clear, farmers are a resilient group.

"There isn't much you can do about it," summarized Ehrke. "It happened, and we'll move on, I guess."

Advertisement
  • Lindsay Lohan in court new

    David McNew/Reuters

    Worst celebrity drivers

    NBA star Dwight Howard's Florida driver's license has been suspended after he failed to pay a ticket for running a red light, Reuters reported. In turns out Howard was ticketed an astonishing 10 times for running red lights in the Orlando area, and received four speeding tickets, 12 citations for failing to pay highway tolls and one citation for failing to change his address on his driver's license. Take a look at the worst celebrity drivers.

  • California fires night firefighters

    Noah Berger/Reuters

    Wildfires rage out of control in California

    Hundreds of homes have been destroyed by wildfires raging out of control in drought-stricken California. Thousands more are threatened.

  • Scotland independence crowd

    REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

    Celebs react to Scotland's independence vote

    Scots head to the polls today to vote on the future of their country. The outcome could end Scotland's 307-year union with England and Wales as Great Britain -- and see it launch into the world as an independent nation of some 5.3 million people. Take a look at celebrity (both Scottish and not) reactions to the referendum.

Advertisement