IXONIA — The charred remains of a large barn were still smoldering Wednesday afternoon, five days after a fire destroyed the Town of Ixonia structure.
The fire at the Ruppnows family farm at N8433 Rock River Road, Ixonia, killed livestock, caused extensive damage and exposed firefighters to frigid temperatures.
Eighteen calves perished in the blaze and two firefighters were injured fighting the fire in sub-zero temperatures, Schilling said. Both firefighters were transported to Aurora Medical Center Summit where they were treated. Schilling said the firefighters received non-life threatening injuries and were released that night.
It was called in shortly before 4 p.m. by a neighbor, according to Ixonia Fire Chief Dave Schilling. “The initial report by the neighbor was they saw a lot of black smoke,” the chief said.
One of the two barns on the property were fully engulfed in flames when the fire department arrived, Schilling said. Family members and neighbors had gotten about 18 steer out of the barn before firefighters arrived.
The barn was about 70 to 80 feet in length and 40 to 50 feet wide, the fire chief said. “It was the typical very old barn that had several attachments to it.” Over the years the owners added on to the building, including lean-tos and other structures, he added.
The barn was filled with hay and a Bobcat stored inside was destroyed.
The fire started in the north end of the building, with a portion of the south end still standing. Schilling did not provide a cause of the fire. Damage estimates are also being worked on with the insurance company, he said.
The owners were home at the time of the fire, Schilling said.
“Barns are old and dry and obviously have no fire protection,” Schilling said. “It goes up quick and it makes no difference if a career department or a department like us (responds). You can’t beat it.”
The metal roof had already collapsed when firefighters arrived, the chief said. “Like most barns it had a steel roof and that makes it tough as it does not burn like the wood does. The roof came down on the structure.”
The cold and snow also hindered firefighting operations. “It was miserable out there,” Schilling said. Access to the farm across from the frozen Rock River, is a small country road that is very narrow, he said. Getting all the apparatus up there and tenders moving in and out hauling water was more of a logistical thing, he added.
“The cold slowed us down. It affected every piece of apparatus out there,” Schilling said. “We had a couple of truck failures, some frozen equipment and we had to make sure no one got unduly exposed. That is what we were most concerned about.”
The Salvation Army brought out a mobile canteen for rehabilitation for all personnel on site, Schilling said.
Fire departments assisting at the scene included Watertown, Sullivan, Lebanon, Western Lakes, Johnson Creek, Ashippun, Clyman, Hartland, Waterloo, Rome, Helenville, Lake County and Hustisford.
Firefighters were at the scene until about 9:30 p.m. Friday.