More than 18,000 cows have died in an explosion and subsequent fire at a family dairy farm in Texas. One individual was critically injured in the blast at South Fork Dairy near Dimmitt. Authorities think that methane gas was ignited by machinery in the facility.
Nearly three million farm animals died in fires across the US between 2018 and 2021. Castro County Sheriff’s Office said they had received a fire report at the farm at about 19:21 on Monday (00:21 GMT Tuesday).
The Sheriff’s Office’s photos show a massive plume of black smoke rising from the ground.
When police and emergency officials arrived on the site, they discovered one individual stuck and in severe condition, who had to be rescued and rushed to the hospital.
While the exact figure of cows that were killed by fire and smoke remains unknown, the Sheriff’s Office told the BBC that an “estimated 18,000 head of cattle” had been lost.
Speaking to local news outlet KFDA, Sheriff Sal Rivera said that most of the cattle had been lost after the blaze spread to an area in which cows were held before being taken to a milking room and then into a holding pen.
“There’s some that survived,” he was quoted as saying. “There’s some that are probably injured to the point where they’ll have to be destroyed.”
Mr Rivera told KFDA investigators believed the fire might have started with a machine referred to as a “honey badger,” which he described as a “vacuum that sucks the manure and water out.”
“Possibly got overheated and probably the methane and things like that ignited and spread out and exploded,” he said.
In a statement sent to the BBC, the Washington DC-based Animal Welfare Institute said that – if confirmed – a death toll of 18,000 cows would be “by far” the deadliest barn fire involving cattle since it began keeping statistics in 2013.
“We hope that the industry will remain focused on this issue and strongly encourage farms to adopt common-sense fire safety measures,” said Allie Granger, policy associate for AWI’s farm animal program. “It’s difficult to think of anything worse than being burned alive.”
According to the AWI, about 6.5 million agricultural animals have died in barn fires since 2013, with around 6 million being hens and approximately 7,300 being cows.
Between 2018 and 2021, approximately 3 million agricultural animals died in fires, with 1.76 million hens dying in the six worst fires.
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