No fewer than 18,000 dairy cows perished in a farm blast in West Texas. The inferno is the worst ever recorded farm fire, according to the Guardian.
Firefighters rescued one employee from the South Fork Dairy on Monday as flames raced through a building and into holding pens, according to images and statements from the Castro County sheriff’s office.
Efforts to reach members of the family who own the farm in one of Texas’ biggest milk production counties were not successful, the newspaper said.
Sheriff Sal Rivera told local radio KFDA that most of the cattle had been lost after the blaze spread to an area in which cows were held before being taken to a milking area and then into a holding pen.
“There’s some that survived,” he was quoted as saying. “There’s some that are probably injured to the point where they’ll have to be destroyed.”
Mr Rivera told KFDA that investigators believed the fire might have started with a machine referred to as a “honey badger”, which he described as a “vacuum that sucks the manure and water out”.
“Possibly [it] got overheated and probably the methane and things like that ignited and spread out and exploded,” he said.
The fire prompted calls from the Animal Welfare Institute — one of the oldest U.S. animal protection groups — for federal laws to prevent barn fires that kill hundreds of thousands of farm animals each year.
“This would be the most deadly fire involving cattle in the past decade since we started tracking that in 2013,” spokesperson Marjorie Fishman said.
The fire was the most devastating U.S. barn fire involving cattle since the AWI began tracking such incidents in 2013. Around 6.5 million farm animals have died in such fires in the last decade, most of them poultry.
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