by Joni Astrup
Fire destroyed a dairy barn Wednesday at Cargill’s research farm in Elk River.
The fire was reported at 4:26 p.m. at the facility at 10383 165th Ave.
Elk River Fire Chief Mark Dickinson said the initial call was that there were hay bales on fire near one of the dairy barns. Firefighters arrived within 3 to 4 minutes, but Dickinson said the barn was full of hay and the fire spread rapidly. The barn was destroyed. Firefighters, however, were able to prevent the fire from spreading to a larger dairy barn nearby, he said.
There was some loss of livestock in the fire.
“They did get almost all the dairy cows out. There was a handful that, unfortunately, did not make it,” he said.
A Cargill spokesman said four of the 84 animals at the facility were lost in the fire.
Area departments were mobilized to help fight the blaze, including fire departments in Ramsey, Big Lake, Zimmerman, Anoka-Champlin, Rogers and Albertville.
“I can’t be more thankful for the help from the surrounding agencies,” Dickinson said.
It was a hot day with a south wind, which complicated firefighting efforts.
Additionally, the heat index was around 100 degrees, making it difficult for firefighters in their heavy turnout gear, he said.
“It’s kind of like wearing a snowmobile suit in the middle of summer,” he said.
Some firefighters experienced issues related to the heat. There was an air conditioned incident support trailer as well as ambulance crews on the scene, and no one had to be transported to a medical facility.
Dickinson said they wrapped up their work at the scene at about 9 p.m.
A Cargill spokesman released this statement: “Our animal nutrition innovation center in Elk River experienced a fire earlier today in an exterior, stand-alone barn. The fire was contained and no employees were injured. The cause of the fire is still being determined. We are grateful for the partnership and swift response of the local fire department. The safety of our employees and our animals remains our top priority as we return to work.”