Major hog barn fire in Dodge County the second-largest in Minnesota this year

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An August blaze in Pipestone County had more than twice the animal casualties of a devastating barn fire at a hog facility on Minnesota Highway 30 near Blooming Prairie this month. Data from the Animal Welfare Institute shows that three times as many barn fires occur in winter than during the summer.
Written By: Noah Fish | Dec 11th 2020 – 11am.
The presumed owners of a farm located at 14491 Minnesota Highway 30 near Blooming Prairie, Minn. console each other on Dec. 3 after a barn with thousands of young hogs burned to the ground, killing the entire herd. (Noah Fish / Agweek)
The presumed owners of a farm located at 14491 Minnesota Highway 30 near Blooming Prairie, Minn. console each other on Dec. 3 after a barn with thousands of young hogs burned to the ground, killing the entire herd. (Noah Fish / Agweek)
The Dec. 3 hog barn fire in Dodge County was only the second-largest barn fire in Minnesota this year, according to the latest tracking analysis by the Animal Welfare Institute. The largest was a barn fire in Pipestone County this summer that killed nearly 5,000 pigs.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire that killed around 2,000 young hogs on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 3. A Dodge County dispatcher said crews were called to 14491 Minnesota Highway 30 around 8 a.m. that day for a report of a barn fire.

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2,000 pigs killed in Dodge County barn fire
Blooming Prairie Fire Department Chief Dean Naatz said owners of the farm, who were unwilling to give their names or comment on the fire, were on the property when the fire broke out. When crews arrived there was a fire “already coming through the center,” said Naatz, which resulted in responders not entering the structure.

“We can’t send people into a collapse situation,” Naatz said.

Fire crews from three different departments responded to the call, said the Blooming Prairie fire chief.

“In a loss like this, it’s going to be tough to tell what actually started the fire,” Naatz said. “Due to the age of the building and the extent of loss, it could be a number of things, honestly.”

Naatz said in his career he’s never seen a hog barn fire the size of the Dec. 3 one.

Individuals at the farm located at 14491 Minnesota Highway 30 near Blooming Prairie, Minn. talk on Dec. 3 after a barn with thousands of young hogs burned to the ground, killing the entire herd. (Noah Fish / Agweek)
Individuals at the farm located at 14491 Minnesota Highway 30 near Blooming Prairie, Minn. talk on Dec. 3 after a barn with thousands of young hogs burned to the ground, killing the entire herd. (Noah Fish / Agweek)

All of the pigs inside the barn at the time were killed and there were no other injuries. The facility name listed on a Dodge County feedlot list is Superior Pork Rodney Garness, but a Facebook message sent on Dec. 3 from a user named Gunnar Garness said Rodney Garness sold the farm last winter.

According to nearby farms, several hog units in the area are contract partners to Holden Farms out of Northfield, Minn. A spokesperson for Holden Farms said they had “no information” on the site being a contract partner.

Allie Granger, policy associate for the Animal Welfare Institute, spends each weekday morning sifting through email alerts of potential farm animal fatalities across the country. She said the organization relies on simple Google alerts and “reporters on the ground” for its tracking data.

Granger
Granger
The Animal Welfare Institute — one of the only entities in the U.S. that tracks farm animals killed in barn fires — describes itself on its website as being a nonprofit organization “alleviating suffering inflicted on animals by humans” since the 1950s.
According to its data, nearly 5 million farm animals have been killed in barn fires since 2013, with the majority of those deaths being chickens, said Granger. Minnesota had the fourth-highest number of barn fires (26) in that time period, according to AWI.

When it comes to farm animals, Granger said AWI’s biggest goal is to promote “commonsense solutions” that prevent barn fires. But listed on AWI’s 2020 annual report as one of its main focuses is “abolishing factory farms, supporting high-welfare family farms, and eliminating inhumane methods used to slaughter animals raised for food.” The organization promotes pasture-based farm systems that “allow animals to express natural behaviors.”

In recent years there’s been an increase in fires occurring on “industrial scale operations,” said Granger.

“A lot of big commercial facilities will have anywhere from a couple hundred pigs to a few thousand,” Granger said. “They are usually confined inside the barn, and not many have outdoor access.”

When any sort of emergency situation arises in a larger livestock unit, Granger said animals rarely have the chance to escape.

AWI proposed changes in 2019 to the National Fire Protection Association’s code for animal housing facilities, which if passed by NFPA will be included in the 2022 version of the code. With its proposal, AWI submitted 10,000 consumer signatures calling for NFPA to implement fire prevention strategies.

Currently no regulations exist in the U.S. to protect farm animals from barn fires, said Granger.

“We’d like to see more sprinklers in these types of facilities, and better smoke detection systems and carbon monoxide systems,” Granger said.

Findings from a recent AWI report suggest that the biggest risk factors for barn fires are malfunctioning heating devices or electrical equipment. AWI data also shows that roughly three times as many barn fires occurred in winter than during the summer.

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