The Country Fire Authority called to the scene in Gippsland, Victoria at around 3am local time, on Tuesday, September 17. By the time firefighters arrived at Yarram Herd Services, the 250-square-metre building was completely engulfed.
It took 10 fire crews over two hours to get the fire under control, with a total of 36 firefighters working to contain the flames. At the time of writing, it is unclear exactly how the blaze began.
Country Fire Authority Gippsland commander, Chris Loeschenkohl, told ABC News about the unique difficulties faced by the firefighters tackling the blaze:
The liquid inside the cylinders was rapidly expanding and essentially the lids of the cryogenic cylinders were just popping off the top and projectiles were being thrown from the building,
So firefighters went into a defensive mode initially to protect themselves, because there were also LPG cylinders at the neighbouring property, and they did a magnificent job.
I’ve never had anything to do with the artificial insemination (AI) side of things before. There was a couple of other flammable liquid cylinders stored within the building which did cause projectiles to exit the building.
The subsequent destruction will reportedly have a hugely negative effect on dairy and beef cattle farmers within the area, with bull semen having been stored at the facility for the past two decades.
Committee vice chairman Aaron Thomas told ABC News:
The actual cylinders are worth between $500 and $1,000 per unit but the semen inside them varies in price.
We’re coming into the AI season so there would have been substantial amounts of semen inside the tanks that we’ve lost, which was owned by our local farmers, and it can range in value from $5 per straw to $95 per straw. It’s going to be a huge blow, especially for our farmers.
Mr Thomas added:
A lot of farmers would have semen stock in the building in those tanks, preparing for AI, so we’ve got that plus all of our herd-testing equipment that was in there as well.
So this is significant damage and it is going to have a flow-on effect on Yarram, especially after the drought that Yarram district has experienced over the last 12 months. It’s going to be a real blow for sure.