West News Wire: The deadliest barn fire documented since the Animal Welfare Institute started keeping track of the fires was caused by an explosion at a dairy farm in the Texas Panhandle that badly injured one person and killed an estimated 18,000 head of cattle. 

State fire marshals will conduct an investigation into how the Monday fire and explosion at Southfork Dairy Farm in Dimmitt were likely caused by overheated equipment, according to Castro County Sheriff Salvador Rivera. 

Marjorie Fishman, a representative for the institute, said on Thursday that “this would be the most lethal fire involving cattle in the past decade, since we started tracking that in 2013”. 

The organization also keeps track of barn fires that claim the lives of other animals, such as chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep. 

“The deadliest barn fire overall since we began tracking in 2013 was a fire at Hi-Grade Egg Producers North, Manchester, Indiana, which killed 1 million chickens,” according to Fishman. 

A 2022 report by the institute noted “several instances in which 100,000 to 400,000 chickens were killed in a single fire.” 

A phone call to South Fork Dairy rang unanswered on Thursday. 

A spokesperson for the state insurance department, which oversees the fire marshals’ office, said only that the fire is under investigation and referred questions to Rivera, who did not immediately return phone calls for comment Thursday. 

Insurance department spokesperson Gardner Selby declined comment on the injured person’s condition. 

Dimmitt is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Amarillo and 50 miles east of the New Mexico border. 

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