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St. Catharines Fire Kills Up to 80 Dairy Cows
July 19, 2016

Terry Yungblut cannot turn his mind to the idea of the future.  How will he rebuild his dairy farm? When will that happen? How will he replace the livestock he lost? How will the family rebound?

All important questions that Yungblut, a third generation dairy farmer in Thorold, can’t answer.

Not yet.

“At some point, we’ll rebuild,” Yungblut said Sunday afternoon, sitting with family and neighbours at his farm house at Greenview Farms, surveying the damage caused by the vicious fire that destroyed a barn and most of the family’s cows.

“I don’t know when that will be. Right now, we’re all in shock, just trying to come to terms with it.”

A large backhoe sifted through the steadily smoking remains of the Greenview dairy barn Sunday afternoon, while crews from the Thorold fire department waited nearby, ready to combat hot spots as they popped up.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the barn was the site of a raging inferno that sent a trail of thick black smoke through the sky that could be seen as far away the Pen Centre shopping mall in St. Catharines.

Multiple 9-11 calls were made about the fire shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday. By the time firefighters arrived at Greenview Farms near the intersection of Kottmeier Road, the barn was already engulfed in flame.

Yungblut said his son was working near the barn and smelled smoke. When he went to investigate, the flames were already consuming the barn.

The fire spread rapidly. Thorold fire chief Michael Seth said the blaze became so intense, steel beams in the structure of the barn glowed with heat, creating additional risks for firefighters.

At one point, a burning barn wall collapsed, causing an eruption of flame to shoot into the sky.

Seth said the intensity of the fire meant crews had little chance of saving the barn. Instead, they focused on protecting other nearby structures, including the farm house, from catching on fire.

He said he contacted Box 43, a Hamilton-based volunteer group that provides a canteen and rehab services to firefighters, who were able to provide the crews at with the scene relief from the scorching heat.

On Saturday night, Seth estimated there were about 70 cows in the barn at the time of the fire, and firefighters were able to rescue about 20 of them.

The screams of panicked cattle heard while firefighters attacked the flames were coming from the rescued animals, firefighters said Sunday afternoon. The cows inside the barn died quickly from smoke inhalation, they said.

Although Seth estimated 50 cows perished in the fire, on Sunday Yungblut said the total number of cattle killed is likely closer to 80, nearly wiping out his stock of dairy cows.

Although Greenview Farms has a vineyard that is used to make grape juice, the family’s core business is dairy production, Yungblut said.

There are no hydrants near the farm, so water had to be brought in to combat the fire. Tanker trucks from the Thorold and Pelham fire departments came and went from the scene every few minutes for more than an hour to ensure firefighters had enough water.

Along with the barn, Seth said nearby silos also caught fire, and embers from the barn ignited a wagon filled with straw.

No people were reported hurt as a result of the blaze.

Seth estimated the fire caused at least $1 million in damage, and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office was notified. A fire marshal investigator was expected to begin an investigation Sunday, but as of the early afternoon, the investigator had not arrived.

Along with the fire marshal, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Minister of Agricultural and the Niagara Region were notified, Seth said.

A cause could not be determined until heavy machinery had cleared through some of the debris, Seth said.

Yungblut said he was told the cause of the fire might end up being classified as unknown because the extreme damage could make finding a source impossible.

The farmer said neighbours have been showing up to help the family, and that insurance should cover at least some of the family’s losses.

Source – www.stcatharinesstandard.ca



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