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Viroqua fire chief: Vernon Co. farmer lucky to be alive after escaping barn fire

By Carrie Vick, cvick@wkbt.com
Published On: Nov 15 2013 05:54:59 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 15 2013 07:21:25 PM CST
Vernon County barn fire aftermath.

WKBT, News8000.com

CHASEBURG, WI (WKBT) -

Firefighters worked through the day Friday to put out a fire that destroyed a Vernon County farmer's barn.

It broke out Thursday night, leaving dozens of dairy cows dead and severely burning the farmer who was inside.

The Viroqua fire chief says it's a miracle farmer Steve Humfeld is alive.

He was in his barn at his farm near Chaseburg Thursday night when the fire started and somehow found a way to get out.

It only took a matter of minutes for Humfeld's entire barn to go up in flames.

"It just makes you feel devastated and kind of heart broken," said Steve's nephew Randy Humfeld.

Randy said his uncle smelled smoke in the hay barn and when he went to lift a hay bail it burst into flames.

"He must not have been too far from the hay shoot because the explosion just knocked him down the shoot but otherwise, if it had kept him in the hay barn, he wouldn't have made it," said Randy.

Viroqua fire chief Steve Skrede says by the time Humfeld got out of the barn, he was severely injured.

"When we got here he was outside with severe burns. They covered about 20 percent of his body, hands, face and ears," said Skrede.

And while Humfeld made it out, most of his dairy cows didn't.

He lost about 60 head of dairy cows inside the barn. There was no time to get them out because he was injured," said Skrede.

"I think they got eight cows out," said Randy.

Humfeld was med-linked to a hospital in Madison.

Fire crews immediately started fighting the fire but weren't able to put it out.

"We put about 30,000 gallons of water on there but we couldn't get it extinguished. This is the hottest one in the last 25 years that I've had to fight," said Skrede.

While crews worked through the night, the neighbors also answered the call to help one of their own.

"We've had neighbors here all night long bringing us sandwiches," said Skrede.

"This community is really great. Everybody will always help a neighbor out no matter what," said Randy.

And while the fight to put out the fire is almost over, Humfeld's battle is not

"I think it's tough on everybody. We're just hoping for the best and hoping that Steve pulls through," said Randy.

This is not the only tragedy Steve and Joann Humfeld have faced.

They also had to rebuild their home seven years ago when a tornado ripped through their property.

Humfeld is in serious but stable condition at a hospital in Madison.

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