ISU working on ‘what’s next’ for university farm after fire

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 10:10 PM CST
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MCLEAN COUNTY (25 News Now) - Illinois State University is thanking its agriculture community for stepping up to battle an almost 15-hour fire and taking in majority of its livestock after the research farm’s barn caught fire Friday.

The university said it lost half of its 700 ft beef barn.

“Certainly, that was a real tragedy averted. Buildings can be replaced, lives can’t,” said ISU director of media relations, Eric Jome.

About 150 cows were in the open area of the barn and all were uninjured. The community has stepped in to help take in the livestock.

“The biggest priority was making sure the animals were taken care of and there are other facilities on the farm and so, there are about 45 head of cattle that are still at the farm,” said Jome.

The fire started early Friday, before 1 am.

“Half of the building was pretty much already involved when I got here,” said Lexington Fire Chief Jason Birkenbeil, “It wasn’t the biggest, but why it took so long was because we had to wait for some heavy equipment to come in here and start pulling straw out so we could soak down the straw.”

The chief says there were more than 50 firefighters working from 11 different fire departments.

“We tried to get our guys to rotate, to get them warm, get some food in them and once we got that we called in for some more additional help,” said Birkenbeil.

ISU says its grateful to see the community support.

“Really it’s a lot to be thankful for this week,” said Jome.

Jome says the university is looking at what’s next for the barn. He also says they are working to accommodate the agriculture students for the rest of this semester and the spring.

The university and Lexington Fire Department do not have an estimate on cost of damage. Birkenbeil says the State Fire Marshall’s Office is investigating the cause and it could take a month or two.