Janesville49.6°

Barn fire kills up to 90 sheep

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Stacy Vogel
January 30, 2008
— Rich Schambow locked down his livestock barn Tuesday night to protect his sheep from the bitter cold.

The lockdown might have cost him his livelihood today.


A fire ravaged the steel pole building this morning and could have killed as many as 75 to 90 sheep.


“It’s basically a loss of everything,” Rich said. “There’s hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of sheep in that barn.”


The fire at 2417 W. Stark Road probably started from a heat lamp, Rich’s 17-year-old son Tom Schambow said.


Tom stood watching the fire, holding a shivering black lamb in his arms.


The lamb and two ewes were all Rich was able to pull from the barn when he went to check on the sheep and saw smoke, Tom said.


“There’s hay in the back, so once it goes up, there’s not much you can do,” Tom said.


Firefighters were able to rescue some other sheep, but it was unclear this morning how many, said Bill Ruchti, shift commander with the Janesville Fire Department.


Janesville, Evansville, Milton and Edgerton fire departments responded to the call, which came in around 8:15 a.m. Firefighters still were battling the blaze an hour later.


Smoke billowed against the crisp blue sky, visible from a mile away and blocking out the sun at times. The barn was probably a total loss, Ruchti said


Ruchti tried to rotate firefighters to protect them from the cold, he said. The temperature read minus 5 degrees at 9 a.m., with wind chills much lower. Firefighters had to keep the water moving at all times to keep it from freezing.


“We’ve paged in for off-duty personnel,” Ruchti said. “We’ve brought in heaters.”


Rich watched in disbelief as the flocks he’d spent 30 years breeding died in the flames. Inside the barn were two national champion rams, dozens of pregnant ewes and unknown number of lambs, he said.


Neighbors gathered to comfort and assist Rich and his family. At one point, Tom and a few others chased down a ram freed from the barn.


“Don’t get me crying,” Rich told a neighbor. “You know, nobody’s hurt.”



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