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Pigs, dogs lost in barn fires Sunday

MELVIN, Iowa -- Two barn fires on Sunday left several dogs dead in rural Edgerton and killed more than 1,800 pigs on a farm outside Melvin, Iowa.

The first fire call came in at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, when a passerby called in to report a fire at a confinement barn at 6165 220th St., northeast of Melvin. Assisting Melvin firefighters at the scene was the May City Fire Department, which provided additional water to battle the blaze.

Melvin Fire Chief Steve Heitritter said a section of the barn that housed the electrical components for the confinement building was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, and the fire was traveling down both directions of the barn. By the time firefighters arrived, the estimated 1,800 baby pigs housed in the barns were dead from either smoke or heat, Heitritter said.

"The barn that had the big hogs was saved," he added. Additional buildings and feeding equipment at the site created more of a challenge for firefighters, but Heitritter said no other buildings were lost in the blaze. The owner of the confinement system lives about a mile away from the hog barns.

The cause of the fire is believed to be electrical, Heitritter added.

In Edgerton, a barn fire was reported at 3:47 p.m. Sunday at 655 160th Ave. No one was at home at the time, and the barn was fully engulfed when crews arrived, according to Edgerton Fire Chief Harlan "Huck" Tinklenberg.

"Flames were coming out the peak of the barn," he said. "Our main goal was to try to save the adjacent building."

Firefighters not only battled flames, but the winds, which seemed to increase steadily throughout the afternoon and evening. Firefighters were on the scene until 11 p.m.

Mutual aid was provided by the Woodstock, Pipestone and Chandler Fire Departments, which Tinklenberg said provided mostly water and some manpower to battle the blaze. Also responding to the scene were the Edgerton Ambulance and the Pipestone County Sheriff's Office.

Tinklenberg said they were able to save the adjoining structure, which was filled with large hay bales, but the barn is deemed a total loss. Numerous dogs were housed in the barn, and Tinklenberg said some of them were lost.

"Some neighbors came by and let dogs out that they could get to," he said. "I don't know how many were lost."

Some seasonal equipment and a pick-up were also lost in the blaze.

"The fire was so involved by the time we got there, we were not able to determine very accurately the cause," Tinklenberg said. "The structure was already sagging in one portion."

Heavy equipment needed to be brought in to knock down the structure completely and extinguish any hot spots, he said, which will make identifying the cause of the blaze nearly impossible.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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