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Stearns County Turkey Farm Devastated By Fire

ST. MARTIN, Minn. (WCCO) -- With Thanksgiving Day just around the corner, turkeys in a large central Minnesota barn were mature and ready for market.

But at around 1:20 a.m. Thursday, devastation struck. That's when fire broke out inside the east end of the barn.

"The building was half-involved when we got there," said St. Martin volunteer firefighter Ben Burg.

Burg and fellow volunteer firefighter Greg Rademacher were among the first on the scene.

"We called for mutual aid right away, to get extra water and manpower and supplies before we even left town," Burg said.

Turkey Barn Fire St. Martin Stearns County
(credit: CBS)

Other firefighters and equipment from the nearby Lake Henry Fire Department also arrived. An estimated 30 firefighters worked for five hours to get the fire under control.

Later Thursday morning, semi-trucks rolled in a week earlier than planned to haul away thousands of birds spared in the fire.

Fortunately, the barn was built in sections. A firewall on the east end kept the flames from spreading and causing greater damage.

But inside, firefighters had to contend with other dangers.

"Our first concern was to get all the power shut off and find propane too, because with turkey barns you've got all the propane heaters," Rademacher said.

Family members were emotional about the loss and chose not to speak publicly about their loss. However, they do credit firefighters for preventing far greater damage.

Wind and cold temperatures complicated the firefight. It was a struggle to keep hoses and nozzles from freezing in the bitterly cold temperatures.

Investigators in the meantime will look for a cause, which could very likely be electrical wiring or a malfunctioning heater.

When asked if they feel for the farmer, both Burg and Rademacher replied, "Oh yes, it's their living. It's a big loss for somebody."

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