13 steers perish as fire destroys barn in Waterloo

A barn structure at the J&R Ranch was still smoldering at midmorning Wednesday following an early morning fire in which 13 steers died in the basement of the barn on state Highway 89, north of Waterloo.

WATERLOO — Thirteen steers died in a barn fire early Wednesday morning on the J & R Bar Ranch located on state Highway 89, Waterloo.

Owner Ryan Powers said he and his wife were sleeping in the nearby home when they heard snapping and popping.

"The next thing we looked out the window and saw the glow of the barn," Powers said just hours after the barn was totally destroyed in the blaze.

He said his wife called the fire department as he ran toward the barn.

"We saw the fire in the roof and it worked its way down," Powers said. The steers were in the basement of the structure and could not escape.

He said he thought about rescuing the animals, "but we couldn't get to it."

The animals ranged in size from 200 to 1,500 pounds, Powers said.

They did not lose any of the horses they board for other owners, he said. They were able to relocate the horses away from the barn, he said.

The 50-by-100-foot barn at W12075 State Highway 89 is considered a total loss. The barn was constructed in the 1950s or 1960s, Powers said. The Powers family has been living on the property north of Waterloo since 2001.

No damage estimate was available Wednesday afternoon.

There were 2,500 bales of hay stored in the top portion of the barn. The most recent hay was put in the barn about two weeks ago.

A hay elevator and grain bin were destroyed in the barn. No other equipment was stored in the structure.

The hay continued to smolder after firefighters left the scene at about 9 a.m.

The fire destroyed the electrical box on the property and We Energies crews were on the scene during the day to restore service.

The fire department left water for the animals, Power said.

Powers said he plans to rebuild the barn.

The barn was fully engulfed in flames when the Waterloo Fire Department arrived on the scene, fire Chief Wesley Benisch said. The department received the emergency call at about 3 a.m.

It took firefighters about an hour to knock the fire down.

There was no cause of the fire as of Wednesday afternoon.

Benisch said the hay was still burning as of mid-day Wednesday and expected the department to be called back to the scene. "With all that hay in there it will burn for days," the chief said.

No injuries were reported, Benisch said.

"We hadn't had a barn fire (for a total loss) in years," Benisch said. "More than 61,000 gallons of water was put on that barn fire," he added. The department responded with an engine, two tenders, a ladder truck, EMS vehicle and both cars.

Several other fire departments were called for assistance, including Marshall, Reeseville, Lake Mills, Watertown, Columbus, Lowell and Fall River. The Lake Mills EMS and Marshall EMS were also on the scene.

With the assistance of the EMS, there was plenty of fluid available for the firefighters to stay hydrated in the hot temperatures, the chief said.

State Highway 89 was closed from County Highway TV to County Highway T for about two hours Wednesday as crews fought the fire.

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