In a rapid succession of 911 calls, reports were made of an explosion on Monday and a fire that, officials later said, trapped a female employee as well as thousands of cattle in a milking parlor of a dairy farm located in Dimmitt in Texas.
Emergency responders saw the plume of thick smoke mushrooming above the plains as they approached around 7 pm. Officials said that the worker, whose identity has not been released by authorities, was transported via helicopter to a Lubbock hospital, Texas. She was still receiving treatment on Thursday.
Sid Miller said, 'While the accident was devastating, I am grateful there were no other injuries' in a press release.
He noted that approximately 18,000 cattle had died. Miller said that this was the deadliest cattle barn fire in Texas history. The investigation and cleanup could take a while.
According to the Animal Welfare Institute (a non-profit that has tracked barn fires in the United States since 2013), this appears to be one of the biggest mass deaths of cattle in the United States in the past two decades.
Over the past decade, the number of animals killed by barn fires has increased to more than 6 million. The organization claims that electrical failures are the most common cause. However, less than 1% of these animal deaths were cattle.
However, cattle have died in masse under other circumstances. A blizzard in Texas killed over 35,000 dairy cattle in 2016. In the following year, devastating wildfires destroyed some California cattle farmers' herds and livelihoods.
The state fire marshal is still investigating the cause of the explosion and fire that occurred Monday at the South Fork Dairy Farm, located in Dimmitt. Dimmitt is a small city southwest of Amarillo.
Requests for additional information made Thursday evening by the Fire Marshal's Office were not immediately answered. Also, local officials such as the Castro County Judge and the Mayor of Dimmitt could not be reached immediately.
Frank Brand, the listed operator of the farm, told me he couldn't comment when I called him on Thursday night.
In a statement, the Texas Association of Dairymen (an industry group that advocates dairy farmers) said that they were 'deeply sorry for the family's dairy and for everyone affected by this tragedy', adding that the people involved had shown courage and resolve. According to the organization, Castro County produces less than 5 percent of all the milk in the state.
Dairy industry workers reported that community members from the agricultural region had been shocked by the damage caused by the fire. They came together to provide lunch and dinner for the farmers affected.