HOLLAND — Half of the dairy herd belonging to Scott and Melanie Gilles died in the Friday afternoon fire that destroyed their barn on Holland Pond Road. All 43 of their milking cows died in the flames that ripped through the barn, while family and neighbors were able to get another 25 to 30 young cattle out into a nearby pasture, according to Derby Line Fire Chief Craig Ellam. Some may be injured and have to be put down, he said.
No one was hurt, Ellam said. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the barn, saving the nearby house and a shed. But the fire had already reached the hay mow and up into the rafters by the time firefighters arrived. The cause of the fire remains undetermined but Ellam said he is leaning toward electrical problems. The couple just bought the farm recently and have insurance, Ellam said.
It is located next to a Gray Farm which lost a barn to fire this summer. The Derby Line Fire Department got the call at 3:30 p.m. Friday and arrived to find the fire fully underway, with wind blowing through the barn like a chimney, stoking the flames, Ellam said. Firefighters struggled to get water on the fire, due to a malfunctioning dry hydrant, he said. They ran out of water a couple of times, he said.
The department turned to a pond on a nearby farm but had to cut through a foot of ice to reach the water, another slow down. They were also hampered by icy roads and conditions, Ellam said. Derby Line called in help through Mutual Aid from Stanstead, Quebec, and Charleston fire departments, with Charleston bringing in tankers. About 40 firefighters responded on a very cold afternoon and evening. Firefighters knocked down the fire, calling in an excavator to open the metal roof in order to get it fully out, Ellam said.
The fire cut power to the house. Vermont Electric Cooperative had a crew at the farm Saturday morning to fix the outage, Ellam said. Ellam returned to examine the remains Saturday morning to attempt to determine a cause. He said he is leaning toward an electrical problem due to the area where the fire started and how it moved. There wasn’t enough left of the barn to warrant asking state fire investigators to assist, Ellam said.
The remaining cattle were housed at neighboring farm belonging to Mark Farrow. They will be examined to see if they can survive any burns, Ellam said. The fire department will work with the town to address the water problems at the dry hydrant, Ellam said.See Also: How Much Milk Does A Cow Produce In A Day
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