Fire destroys middle section of SDSU Cow/Calf Unit

Emma Dejong


An early morning fire burned the entire middle section of the SDSU Cow/Calf Unit on March 2.

Shawna Reuer, a junior animal science major, was the student on duty when the fire began. At the time she was monitoring the cows for new calves.

“It was about a quarter after 4 a.m., and I started noticing there was something different in the air,” she said.

She stepped outside and saw “one of the big windows engulfed in flames.” She immediately called the Brookings Police Department and then let out the livestock.

The SDSU Police Department and the Brookings Police and Fire departments responded within 15 minutes, she said, and the fire was under control by around 8 a.m. No person or animal was injured, and the total cost in damages has not yet been determined.

The north and south wings of the building were untouched. However, almost nothing was saved in the middle, Kevin Vander Wal, the unit’s manager said.

Reuer said it took a while for the fire to be contained because of the vehicle equipment, three propane tanks and abundance of straw and hay in the building.

“There was just so much fuel for the fire to just keep going,” she said.

Vander Wal said the cause of the fire is still unknown and will likely “stay a mystery.” The only machinery plugged in overnight was a tractor, but Vander Wal said that possibility has been ruled out.

Now the Cow/Calf unit is focused on moving forward. Plans for relocating the unit were already approved by the state legislature last month, and were in the works before the fire. The timeline is still not set in stone, Vander Wal said, but the new Cow/Calf unit will be located near Volga, S.D. in the future.

He added the unit will have to make a few adjustments in planning for Little International at the end of March, but “we’re getting by with that,” he said.