A catastrophic explosion and fire at a dairy farm in the United States on Monday killed at least 18,000 cows. The devastating blaze is the deadliest barn fire on record, according to the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), which has been tracking barn fires in the country.
Local media said the fire at the South Fork Dairy farm in Texas started after an explosion. Images and statements from the scene painted a harrowing picture of the devastation.
Sheriff Sal Rivera told News Channel 10 that the blaze spread to the building where cows were locked up before being moved to the milking area and into a holding pen.
Because the animals were locked in the buildings, Rivera said only a small percentage of cows survived; he added that animals who survived were probably so injured they’ll be killed.
While the cause of the explosion is being investigated, Rivera believed insulation catching fire might be the cause.
“It is hard to imagine anything worse than being burned alive,” Marjorie Fishman, PR manager at AWI, said. The animal welfare organization called for federal legislation to prevent the hundreds of thousands of farm animals killed yearly in the United States because of barn fires.
The blaze was the most devastating US barn fire involving cows since the AWI began tracking such incidents in 2013. Over the last decade, around 6.5 million farm animals have died in such fires.
Texas has many dairy farms and ranks fourth nationally in milk production. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is assisting the farm owner with the disposal of the cow bodies, a process that could take weeks.