MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Owners of a western Wisconsin organic dairy farm are grateful for the help of friends and strangers. A fire gutted the Crystal Ball Farms Organic Dairy cattle barn in Osceola Thursday afternoon. Dozens of cows had to be rescued from the milking barn and then relocated.

“It was connected from roof to roof, it was all solid,” owner Troy DeRosier said looking at the land.

DeRosier said the fire started at the end of the barn near the silos and the wind kept it moving.

“This barn was built in the 60s, and it was 2×4 construction and it was dry so once it got started it just took off,” DeRosier said.

He was two hours away when a passerby stopped in to alert creamery manager Jessi Fouks he saw smoke coming from the barn.

“I had to get the cows out of the barn so ran through the calf barn into the main barn started throwing doors and gates open. It was very, very smoky. The cows were unusually quiet got the gate open and I just started hollering like we do when we get them out in the morning and luckily they came running,” Fouks said.

Eighty-three cows escaped from the milking barn. While five fire departments worked to put out the fire, farmers, neighbors and strangers arrived to help with the cattle.

“People coming in, living fences, anything to keep the cows off the road, keep the stragglers in, collecting all the babies getting them down to the shop so they were contained,” Fouks said.

Some of the young stock is still on the property. A neighboring farm took the cattle. There’s about 200 in all. Crystal Ball Farms delivers milk to homes, coffee shops, co-ops and grocery stores.

“It’s huge, it’s our life,” DeRosier said.

While the future remains uncertain, DeRosier gives thanks to everyone who stepped up when they needed help the most.

“It’s really nice. It feels good that the community would want to do that,” DeRosier said.

The farm lost two cows who went back into the barn. They are still looking for another three that wandered away. Now the family’s focus turns to what it will take to rebuild.

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