Over 18,000 cows perished in a massive explosion and fire at a west Texas family dairy farm Monday. Experts say it was the deadliest barn burning on record in the U.S.
Located in one of the state’s largest milk producing areas, the cause of the extensive fire is under investigation. The Castro County Sheriff’s Office reports firefighters rescued an employee from the South Fork Dairy near Dimmitt as the blaze quickly spread.
That worker was said to be critically injured.
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) said the disaster was on a scale unseen in any farm incident before. The organization has been tracking barn fires since 2013 and said such high animal mortality is usually seen in chicken fires.
There have been hundreds of thousands of these poultry animals killed in past incidents, but none are known to have resulted in this many cattle deaths.
JUST IN: 18,000 cows are now dead due to an explosion in Dimmitt, Texas.
Honest question: How does a dairy farm have an explosion so large that it kills 18,000 cows?pic.twitter.com/cQ66IYH3la
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) April 12, 2023
The AWI observed that these incidents are common and are usually blamed on heaters. However, they are normally on a much smaller scale than the Texas explosion and fire.
Policy Associate Allie Granger told the Washington Examiner that the cause of Monday’s explosion appeared to be an electrical malfunction as a result of broken equipment.
Castro County Sheriff Sal Rivera told local media that the fire may have originated with a piece of machinery called a honey badger. That is a vacuum that draws manure and water out. It is believed it may have gotten overheated.
At that point, the methane and other flammables may have sparked a fire that led to the massive explosion.
The fire prompted new calls from the AWI, one of the nation’s oldest animal protection organizations, for federal regulations to ward off these barn fires that kill hundreds of thousands of animals each year. There are no rules out of Washington governing the construction and protection of barns.
Granger said proposed codes better protect animals and provide for animal inspections along with fire departments and fire experts. They combine emergency action plans with fire safety training and structural improvements.
Texas is not one of the handful of states that have fire protection codes for barns, according to an AWI statement.