Up to 7,500 hogs were killed as firefighters from multiple agencies battled a large blaze at a hog containment building outside of Frazee on Friday July 9.
At 8:48 p.m., emergency dispatchers received a call concerning a structure fire on the 37000 block of Becker County Road 120, outside of Frazee. The property is owned by the Briard's Hog Farm Partnership, according to Becker County property records.
"It initially came across the pager as a hog confinement being on fire, no one was trapped, only the animals were left inside," said Travis Gray, deputy chief of the Frazee Fire Department. "Unfortunately, a lot of hogs did not make it."
Gray described the hog confinement building as an 8,000-square-foot structure with multiple buildings connected by adjoining passageways with no separating doors. He said the fire seems to have begun in the newest section of the buildings, which was completed within the last five years.
"The closest barn, next to (the barn on fire), I know quite a few pigs didn't make it because of the smoke inhalation," he said.
Gray said he didn't get an estimate for the number of pigs lost in the fire from the owner, but in the initial incident report, the owner estimated between 7,000 to 7,500 pigs were lost.
Gray also said Frazee firefighters attacked the fire initially through the front door, but the entry door was on the opposite side of the building from where they believed the fire started.
"When our guys made entry, it just was nothing but black smoke, not a lot of visible flames from the inside," he said. "They had vent windows all along the one side of the barn, and all of those window were just glowing red, so it was pretty much fully involved by the time we got there."
He added that smoke was pouring out of every "nook and cranny" and the fire had reached the attic because there was smoke coming out of the eaves.
Additionally, the owner told the firefighters the floor of the building on fire was a plastic material set over a manure pit, which is fed underneath the floor from the other adjoining buildings. The unstable floor and size of the structure made an interior attack not possible, Gray said.
"By the time that we got there, the fire was almost too far along that it really wouldn't have done much anyway," he said. "On a big structure like that, the space is just too large, it's too hard to actually see where you need to go."
To make matters worse, the adjoining passageways did not have doors, so firefighters and the owner put up a piece of plywood inside the passage to block the smoke from continuing into the adjacent structures. That may have prevented more hogs from being killed.
Additional firefighters responded from Detroit Lakes, Wolf Lake and Vergas. Overall, more than two dozen firefighters battled the blaze until about 2:30 a.m., a total call time of nearly six hours, he said.
"We basically just doused the attic with water, and shot as much water through the windows as possible," said Gray.
The owner estimated the damage value will be close to $1 million between structural repairs to the building and the loss of the hogs, he said.
"The structure was still standing when we left," said Gray. "Luckily, on those types of commercial buildings … there's not a lot of combustibles, so once all the plastic on the inside was burnt up, it really didn't go too much further than that."