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Published March 05, 2009, 09:22 PM

Barn fire kills more than 20 dairy cows in Ashland County

About 75 cows were rescued from the Thewis family's dairy barn before flames engulfed it.

By: Melissa Ganje, FOX 21 News

Decades of work were reduced to char today when fire raged through an Ashland County dairy barn, killing more than 20 cows.

The Thewis family barn went up in flames about 10 in the morning. Firefighters arrived 20 minutes later, but by that time, the barn was fully engulfed. Mike Thewis was able to save about 75 or 80 cows, but more than 20 died in the fire, according to his father, Lyle Thewis.

“It’s one that’s hard to endure when you feel that you have worked an entire lifetime to develop a good operating farm and something like this happens,” Lyle Thewis said.

Mike Thewis told firefighters he couldn’t believe how fast the fire went through the building.

“He said he saw some smoke and by the time he started getting animals out, the whole thing was full of smoke, and flames were shooting out,” said Assistant Fire Chief Mark Campy of the Mellen Fire Department. “So it was pretty intense for him.”

Campy said the fire started in the compressor room of the barn’s milking parlor. He said he’s not sure what started the fire.

Because the barn’s milking area is destroyed, Thewis said his son would need to find temporary milking facilities. Neighbors are offering support, including cleaning out barns to make room for Thewis’s cattle.

Campy said it took about a half-hour to knock down the fire with help from five neighboring fire departments and water pumped from a nearby river. While the barn is a total loss, they were able to save the north and south buildings as well as the family home.

Lyle Thewis said he hopes his son will see fit to rebuild the dairy farm that his own father established in 1936.