TOWN OF ROSENDALE
Fire broke out Tuesday afternoon at the state’s largest dairy farm but was under control in just a few hours after several fire crews responded to battle the blaze at Rosendale Dairy.
According to Bill Harke, a spokesman for Milk Source, which owns the large dairy just west of Fond du Lac in the Town of Rosendale, fire broke out in a commodity shed as feed was being mixed. A piece of machinery caught on fire and the blaze spread to the feed stored in the building.
Harke told Wisconsin State Farmer that the workers had been trained in what to do in case of a fire and they followed procedure — trying to put the fire out with extinguishers until they realized it wouldn’t work and then called 911.
All the feed and the building were lost in the blaze, but Harke said the fire did not spread beyond the commodity shed and did not affect any dairy facilities at the farm, which is located at N8997 County Trunk M in the Town of Rosendale.
All the feed ingredients — wet cake, straw and other commodities — were lost in the fire, along with the building and the mixer, loader and tractor that were in there at the time. Harke said he guessed the financial loss was going to be around $1 million.
"But we still have 125,000 tons of corn silage on the feed pad along with haylage, and the co-op down the road was quickly able to mix the feed ingredients we needed, so the girls didn’t miss a beat. The milking cycle continued uninterrupted."
It was gratifying, Harke said, that the guys working in the commodity shed followed procedure. The dairy has a director of safety and training on site and it appeared that the farm’s training procedures paid off.
"It’s not the kind of day you ever want to have, but it’s nice to know that everything works the way it’s supposed to."
Harke wasn’t sure exactly how many fire departments responded to the emergency, but guessed that it was over a half dozen. "More departments may have come in over night to take over from the earlier responders, and then there are the departments that cover for those that are on site at the fire."
The fire didn’t cause any injuries to workers, to fire fighters or the cattle on the farm, he said, adding that redundancies from the other farms owned by Milk Source helped Rosendale get quickly back on its feet.
Within hours they were able to set up outdoor bunkers with concrete sections so they could handle the new commodities brought in by the co-op. "We had truckers coming in off the road to ask if they could help. That was really neighborly."
The fire is inconvenient for the dairy, Harke said, but nobody got hurt and no animals were hurt or affected by the blaze, which is the upside.
Harke said fire fighters were aided in battling the fire by the fire hydrant that was installed when the dairy was built.
"My guess is that it will be a couple of months before we’re in a position to rebuild, but we’re not going to miss a beat."
In a telephone call the morning after the fire, he guessed they would quickly be able to begin clearing out the burned feed commodities and assessing the damage.