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Investigation into cause of pig nursery fire continues

Lead Summary
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Mavis Fodness

More than a month after a fire at a New Horizon Farms facility east of Jasper killed two women, investigators gathered at the scene Tuesday, June 16, to determine a cause.
The Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office was joined by as many as 15 other private fire investigators from across the United States.
About a dozen vehicles with licenses plates from Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Illinois, Wyoming and Washington State were parked near what is left of the former pig nursery.
“You don’t know what you have until you have it,” one out-of-state investigator said. “Nothing is being overlooked.”
The May 11 blaze claimed the lives of two female employees whose bodies were later found in the rubble. New Horizon Farms employee Sharla Drew, 50, and independent pressure-washing contractor Kristy (VanSurksum) Geisler, 32, were both from Jasper.
Investigators at the scene last week included representatives from insurance companies plus equipment and building manufacturers.
Since Monday, the group has photographed and examined the rubble from the 41-by-228-foot single-story, wood-frame and steel-sided structure.
Some investigators used an excavator to move metal debris to examine the concrete footings and look inside the slated concrete flooring.
Others used to a lift to get an overhead view of the fire scene.
Another investigator spray painted lines and numbers on the concrete foots to indicate where hog pens were located.
“In any investigation once you have your pictures, you start to move things,” the investigator explained.
Some investigators took samples that may have a bearing in their final determination. The samples will be examined in a laboratory versus completing the tests at the scene.
The process could take some investigators days to complete.
Four nursery barns are located at the investigation site four miles east of Jasper at the intersection of 70th Avenue and 251st Street in Rock County.
The fire was contained to a single structure, located to the far west of the remaining three.
Two vehicles were also damaged in the blaze.
The barn had just been emptied of 2,500 pigs, so there were no animals in the building at the time of the fire.

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