FORT ATKINSON (WKOW)-- A Fort Atkinson family is devastated after a fire claimed nearly 30 of their cows Saturday night.
"We lost quite a few good cows," says Bill Ehrke.
Bad news came for lifelong farmer Bill Ehrke as he stepped off the plane at O'hare Airport in Chicago. He was coming home from a rare vacation. At 8:00 PM he got the phone call that his barn was on fire.
"It was just about completely burned then," Ehrke says.
Fire engines came from as far away as Beloit. Neighbors and family members were already busy saving cows.
"Two random guys we've never seen them, don't know who they were. They saw the flames, called the fire department and if it wasn't for them we don't know how long it would've taken for deputies to get out here," says Bill's granddaughter Cierra Ehrke-Essock.
For many farmers a cow is simply a monetary investment, a way to earn a living, but for Cierra Ehrke, her heart, her very soul was invested in those cows.
"It's that feeling of I'm close to those. I have a connection with them. I want them saved," Cierra says.
Of the 17 cows saved from the flames was Cierra's favorite cow. A cow recently voted the best 2-year-old show cow in the country.
"You go from a little county fair where ooh, I got a blue ribbon to you are a nationally known cow. You're the best 2-year-old in the nation," Cierra explains.
It's a title that didn't come easy. After buying back the farm last year the family spent thousands of dollars and countless hours rebuilding the family barn. They also invested thousands in a few dozen young calves only see it all taken away.
"To see all that work that I did last Summer, gone. We're going to have to start all over again," Cierra says. "It's really heart-breaking to see, but all we have to do is start over again."
Investigators still haven't determined a cause for the fire. They think it might have had something to do with the barn's old wiring. They'll continue their investigation on Monday.
FORT ATKINSON (WKOW) – A barn fire that broke out at Ehrke Farms in Fort Atkinson killed about 30 to 34 cows on Saturday.
Authorities said no people were injured during the fire that started around 3:00 p.m. at N3726 Ehrke Road.
Cierra Ehrke-Essock, granddaughter of the owner and operator of Ehrke Farms, said, "It's so hard to think that just over a year ago we made Ehrke Farms ours again. The many hours of dusting, sweeping, scrubbing and painting. All those hours wasted. I don't know how to take it yet."
Cierra said they were able to save a cow that was recently given the honor of the Junior All-American Senior Two Year Old. The two-year-old cow and 16 other milking cows were safely removed from the fire and taken to other operations to be milked. She also said all the calves and heifers were moved to a different barn.
According to the Cierra, her mother was on her way home to feed the calves and heifers when she arrived to find 20 firefighters fighting the large fire. Cierra tried to get home to help but the roads surrounding the farm were too congested with tanker trucks trying to get water from town.
Cierra said she is glad they were able to save so many, but is sad that the best barn cat, Scamper, did not make it out of the fire. Cierra said, "I always liked walking in the office and hearing her meow and seeing her curled up in her feed tub."
The family would like to thank their neighbors, friends and relatives who played an active role in saving the animals.
Stay with WKOW 27 News tonight at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. as Gordon Severson talks to the family and what this fire means for their family business.
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