Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
At around 8:30 Thursday evening, April 23, Albert Holker was in the machine shed cutting metal while his parents, Duane and Louise Holker, were next door milking cows. A spark from the metal-cutting ignited a fire in the machine shed that quickly spread in the hot winds that night. Duane said the shed was "gone" in less than 20 minutes. Fire departments from Dassel, Litchfield, Watkins and Kimball were called out. Both the Dassel and Litchfield departments had been fighting grass fires earlier in the day. Firefighters worked until midnight putting out the flames. The farm is located at the intersection of CSAH 27 and 700th Ave., just west of Kingston. Neighbors and anyone out driving that night saw flames shooting 50-60 feet in the air. Many found their way to the farm to watch. The next morning, friends and neighbors arrived with cattle trailers. All 202 of the remaining milk cows were transferred to friends' farms, 15 to Paynesville and the rest to a farm near Litchfield. Now the Holkers drive nine miles each way to milk their cows near Litchfield. Others came with lunch for the Holkers who hadn't slept in 36 hours. The greatest loss was the milking parlor. The Holkers lost all their milking equipment along with the day's milk. All their veterinary supplies, work clothes and shoes went up in the flames. The silo between the shed and barn was still smoldering the next morning, as were spots of straw in the hay loft of the barn. The fiberglass roof of the silo melted into the silo that was full of corn, no doubt providing ample fuel for many hours. Duane and Louise work the farm along with their son and daughter and their partners. About 50 non-milking cows and several calves remain on the Holker farm. They have not yet been given the go-ahead to demolish and rebuild. Meanwhile, they continue to drive to Litchfield to milk their cows. The Holkers seem to be taking the fire in stride. A sense of humor helps a lot. The morning after the fire, as cows left the farm by trailorfuls, Duane remarked, "I didn't know I had so many friends." Duane commented that there have been 10 births since the fire five days ago. Nine of them were heifers. "Maybe that's an omen," Duane chuckled.