SANDUSKY - Up to 40 calves, some just a few days old, died in an early morning barn fire yesterday at the Hermes Dairy Farm on State Rt. 4 about a mile south of Sandusky.
David Hermes, who owns the dairy with his two brothers, said firefighters helped corral all 100 of the milking cows out of the barn before the fire got too hot, but only three calves were saved.
"You couldn't get them out, she just went so quick," he said. "You couldn't get anywhere near it."
The wood frame and tin-sided barn, the milking parlor, a pickup truck, and an estimated 5,000 bales of hay and 5,000 bales of straw were destroyed in the blaze, he said.
"This place is a total loss," Mr. Hermes said.
Capt. Keith Wohlever of the Perkins Township Fire Department said he could not put a dollar estimate on the damages.
"The main part of the milking barn and the calving area were totally destroyed," he said. "It's going to be a high dollar amount."
The cause of the fire, which was reported by a passer-by about 2:30 a.m., had not been determined but did not appear suspicious, Captain Wohlever said. The blaze was under control by 5 a.m. though crews remained on the scene throughout the day to break apart hay and straw to fully extinguish the fire and quell the smoke that billowed across Route 4.
Twenty-one Perkins Township firefighters responded to the scene along with 36 firefighters from Sandusky, Bellevue, Huron, Berlin Heights, Margaretta Township, Gro-ton Township, and Milan Township. They took turns working in the subzero temperatures.
Captain Wohlever said one firefighter was treated at Firelands Regional Medical Center for injuries sustained in a fall. He said firefighters had no problem getting water from nearby fire hydrants but battled freezing hoses, slippery conditions from all of the ice that formed, and the risk of frostbite.
"You couldn't ask for a worse day," Captain Wohlever said. "The guys did a tremendous job."
Mr. Hermes was counting his blessings despite the substantial loss of property.
Because of the direction of the wind, none of the other outbuildings on the property was damaged, he said. And, within two hours of getting the milking cows out of the barn, they had been transported to a dairy farm near Vickery and were ready for the morning milking.
"Everybody comes together when something like this happens," Mr. Hermes said. "We made a phone call or two and in no time there were about eight cattle trailers in the driveway from all over. Everyone's willing to do something for you, which is good."
The Hermes farm supplies milk for Toft's Dairy in Sandusky.
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