Iowa farmer unsure of dairy barn's future after fire

Wisconsin State Farmer
Firefighters from multiple agencies battle a fully engulfed barn fire on the Leonard Schuster farm south of Dubuque, IA, on Dec. 21, 2016.

Dubuque, IA — An 82-year-old dairy farmer says he's unsure whether to rebuild after a massive fire destroyed his dairy barn south of Dubuque.

Leonard Schuster says he tried to douse the flames himself after discovering that the milking parlor was on fire Wednesday.

"When you got hay and straw in the barn and the wind was blowing good (at about 20 miles per hour), there's nothing you can do," he said.

Schuster tells the Telegraph Herald that he's grateful for his neighbors' help and that all of his 110 cows and calves escaped safely. Neighbors helped move the animals to a farm 13 miles away near Zwingle.

"We had the most wonderful neighbors there was, coming with all their trailers and moved them all out," Schuster said. "I never knew we had so many good neighbors — even businesses — offering to help us. It was tremendous."

The farm's milking equipment and tanks were not damaged.

The blaze likely caused $250,000 to $300,000 in damage, according to Key West Fire Chief Brian Arnold. But Arnold said the cause of the fire may never be determined because of the extent of the damage.

Schuster suspects an electrical issue caused the blaze, since no one was inside or near the barn.

"I don't think I'm going to rebuild," he said. "We don't know. We haven't talked about it yet."