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Flames engulf Lab Farm

November 1, 2007

A hay storage building on Lab Farm 1 on the UW-River Falls campus was destroyed Saturday night after a fire broke out around 8:45 p.m. 

Firefighters from River Falls, Hudson and surrounding communities arrived on the scene and had the fire under control by approximately 9:45 p.m.  No one was injured, and horses were evacuated from the other lab buildings.  However, nearly 5,000 bales of hay were destroyed, an estimated loss of $18,750.

“As the fire built in intensity inside the corrugated structure, producing billowing smoke, I watched at the scene as the men and women of the River Falls, Ellsworth, Prescott and Hudson fire departments successfully tackled, contained and extinguished the stubborn blaze,” Chancellor Don Betz said in a statement regarding the fire.  “UW-River Falls lost a building and hay, but our colt barn, horses and other invaluable property were not damaged.” 

The River Falls Police Department (RFPD) believes that two juvenile River Falls males are responsible for starting the fire.  The juvenile’s ages are 13 and 14, according to the RFPD, and they will have to make an appearance in juvenile court.

“I want to publicly thank the men and women from all the above mentioned fire departments as well as River Falls Police Department and UWRF’s Public Security officers, the staffs from both Lab Farm 1 and 2, and our faculty and students whose dedication have built the reputation of the equine program and the farms,” Betz said.  “All responded to this challenge.”

The campus lab farms are located south of the University, near Cemetery Road and South Cudd Avenue.  Built in 1981, the hay storage building was made of metal and wood and measured 2,580 square feet.  Though the building is self-insured by the State of Wisconsin, the estimated cost of replacement is $28,000.