By Joel Stottrup and Lesley Toth
BOGUS BROOK TWP. — Curt Hanenburg, 50, looked weary as he sat inside the porch of the farm home late Tuesday morning that he and his wife Sharon have in Bogus Brook Township near Pease, while outside puffs of smoke rose from the smoldering ruins of their dairy barn.
The Hanenburgs had been up all night because fire destroyed the barn and claimed the lives of all but about 15 of the approximately 70 Holstein cows that had been inside.
The Mille Lacs County Communication Center received a fire call Monday. Fire departments from Milaca, Princeton, Foreston, Foley, Ogilvie and Baldwin were shortly dispatched to the couple’s home at 9402 110th Street.
The Sheriff’s Office reported that the cause of the fire was unknown as of Tuesday afternoon and is under investigation. No one was injured in the blaze.
Curt Hanenburg said a neighbor came to their door at about 7:30 p.m. Monday evening to tell the couple their barn was on fire. By that time, the neighbor’s daughter Tracy Larson had made the 911 call.
“We ran out to the barn to try to let the cows out but it was too full of smoke,” Hanenburg said. The milk cows were in tie stalls, and there were 10 dry cows (not being milked at the time) in a barn portion in back that Hanenburg said he was able to get out to safety. As firefighters worked on the fire he was able to get a small number of the milk cows out.
Capt. Greg Lerud of the Milaca Fire Department said nearly 40 volunteer firefighters were on the scene battling the blaze until 2:30 a.m.
“Then we were paged again at 4:03 for a rekindled and we were done with that by 5:30,” Lerud said.
The six responding fire departments were called to the property because of its location.
“Because of the rural location, we had to use tanker trucks,” Lerud said. “We trucked in over 80,000 gallons of water last night. Princeton had their aerial truck there, too.”
A total of eight tanker trucks transported the water to the scene.
The Hanenburgs have three children who are all attending college. Marissa, 22, who attends St. Ben’s College, and Mitchell, 19, who attends St. Cloud Technical College, came home to help at the fire scene. Son Marcus, 21, at college in River Falls, Wis. was scheduled to be home the next day. Mitchell had to shoot some of the cows to stop their suffering from the fire, Sharon Hanenburg noted.
The Hanenburg farm, which Curt Hanenburg had taken over from his father Elroy Hanenburg, was listed as a Century Farm last year. Curt Hanenburg has been dairying all his life and he and Sharon Hanenburg, who have been married 23 years, worked side by side milking the cows.
Curt noted that the newest part of the barn, the part where the cows were milked was built in 1994 after the Hanenburgs tore out the oldest part of the barn. The hay and straw barn sat atop the milking part. A part of the barn that was in the back was built in the 1960s, he said.
Curt Hanenburg said the 36’x130’ barn complex is a total loss.
“I think we saved the adjacent buildings,” Lerud said. “Not to say they aren’t damaged, but they’re still standing.”
Curt Hanenburg said he did not know whether he and Sharon will start up their dairy business again, a decision that would take some time to make, he indicated.
Sharon Hanenburg estimated that 30-plus neighbors came over to assist in various ways, including moving cattle around, making sure the firefighters had enough water to drink, and general assistance.
“It’s just unbelievable the outpouring of love and support,” she said.
Sharon Hanenburg added that she couldn’t say enough good things about the firefighters, who besides fighting the fire in the barn, sprayed down the 50’ silo that is full of high moisture corn.
“We are blessed none of the firefighters were hurt,” Sharon Hanenburg said. “They were phenomenal.”
While that was a blessing, the loss of the barn, though insured, was tough, she indicated.
“It was devastating, especially when it is your livelihood,” Sharon Hanenburg said.