By Stan Maddux
LA PORTE, Ind. – Animals were safely evacuated as fire engulfed a barn full of hay at an Indiana dairy farm.
Volunteer firefighters from Scipio Township and other agencies responded on June 9 to the blaze at 4282 S. 425 West outside LaPorte in the northwest part of the state.
The roughly 4,000-square-foot metal-sided hay barn at Minich Dairy Farm was engulfed in flames when firefighters began arriving about 8 a.m., said Scipio Township firefighter Andrew McGuire.
With no hope of saving the burning structure, McGuire said the primary focus was keeping the flames from spreading to two nearby outbuildings which they were able to do successfully.
“The whole roof had collapsed already by the time we got here,” McGuire said.
According to a company profile, Minich Dairy Farm owned by James Minich has been operating for over 100-years. The farm with up to 14 employees generates more than $1 million in annual revenue, according to the company profile.
Before firefighters arrived, McGuire said family members and their workers removed an unknown amount of animals away from the burning structure and two nearby outbuildings initially threatened by the flames to safety. “We don’t have any animal fatalities as of right now,” McGuire said.
Valerie Minich, one of the owners of the farm, also helped move a couple of horses from a pasture a few hundred feet away from the intense heat and flames to the backyard of the nearby farmhouse as a precaution. Minich broke down when she started to discuss the fire then declined further comment.
McGuire said it was too early to know the cause of the fire. “There’s no telling at this point,” he said.
Motorists were advised to avoid the area to allow fire department tanker trucks to continuously bring in fresh supplies of water since there were no fire hydrants in the rural area between Kingsbury and Union Mills.
Firefighters were called back to the farm the next day when flames rekindled in what was left of the hay beneath the charred remains of the roughly 100-feet-by-40-feet barn.
Jim Minich is a cousin of Luke Minich, who owns the nearby Triple M Dairy. About 3 million gallons of milk is produced by about 1,000 Holstein and Jersey cows at Triple M Dairy, owned by the same family since 1909.
In 2018, Luke Minich’s wife, Kim, was at the Indianapolis 500 and presented the traditional cold bottle of milk to the winning driver, Will Power, in Victory Circle.
Luke and Kim along with their five children appeared in a segment of the popular children’s TV show, Sesame Street, filmed in 2018 at their farm. They had speaking roles during a segment where Cookie Monster wanted to know where milk comes.