It took more than two hours for firefighters in south-east Victoria to cope with a fire at Yarram Herd Services’ artificial insemination laboratory and storage facility, where 100 cylinders with cattle semen were destroyed overnight.
The cryogenic units, worth between $500 and $1,000 per thing and containing genetic materials that cost between $5 and $95 per straw, also posed an extra challenge for 10 crew who arrived to fight 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”, Country Fire Authority Gippsland commander Chris Loeschenkohl explained to the Australian broadcaster ABC, noting that firefighters had to go into a defensive mode initially.
According to him, there also were “a couple of other flammable liquid cylinders stored within the building which did cause projectiles to exit the building”.
While investigators are yet to determine what caused the fire, Yarram Herd Services are evaluating their losses. Its committee vice-chairman Aaron Thomas explained that the fire hit the facility during the “high season” when there are substantial amounts of cattle semen, owned by local farmers, stored there, which is “going to be a huge blow” for them.
"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”, he said to ABC, pointing out that the district had experienced a draught over the past year.