Fire wipes out Wash. dairy's milking barn

Fire wipes out Wash. dairy's milking barn

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - A two-alarm fire early Monday destroyed the milking shed at a dairy in east Clark County.
East County Fire and Rescue says firefighters prevented flames from spreading to the farm house and other outbuildings at Stauffer's Dairy in Washougal.

The fire broke out at about 12:30 a.m. Monday. An initial report indicated two cows had perished in the fire but farm staff later said no cows were killed.

There are no hydrants near Stauffer's Dairy and water had to be trucked in for firefighters. Overhead power lines also complicated efforts to fight the fire.

The fire department said the dairy was established in 1937 and has about 140 cows.

Owner Don Stauffer told KATU News the farm supplies milk to Darigold. His two sons and two other workers run the farm.

The family also sells hay to other farms and ranches nearby. Stauffer said he worked on the farm beginning when he was 9 years old. He said the milking facility was the heart of operations on the farm.

Nearby farmers arrived to help by packing cows into trailers and other vehicles Monday morning so they could be milked at other facilities. The cows usually get milked at about 12:30 a.m.  –about the same time the fire broke out, Stauffer said.

Stauffer's Dairy has been part of the generations of dairy farmers that have settled in the area and neighbors are on a first name basis. Many of them drove by after the fire offering to help milk the cows by hand.

"Don and Ruby have been here forever, and they're great people," said Dorrie Best. "And the farm is just a part of the landscape. I'm going to miss the old barn, you can't replace that – it's just too beautiful."

Stauffer said he doesn't know if the barn will be replaced.

"(The) whole thing's all gone – probably won't be another dairy here again," he said.

But after 75 years of dairy farming the Stauffers haven't given up yet. The family will be going over the numbers with the insurance company when the hot spots cool and investigators can figure out a cause to see if they can start again.

"(It's gonna take a few days to figure it out I guess," Stauffer said.

Best said she hopes they rebuild it.

"It was a beautiful barn, and they're part of the culture out here. I'm sure the farm's here to stay. I doubt they'll give that up," she said.

The fire was so hot it melted the siding on the house across the street.

No injuries were reported. The milking barn is a total loss, firefighters said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.