By Matt Kane
MONTROSE Billy the pigmy goat was left looking for a new home Tuesday afternoon.
For the past four years, Billy bedded down at night in a pen in a 2,880-square-foot barn on the farm owned by Rosemary Schultz at 5623 Aetna Avenue SE in Franklin Township, but, Tuesday afternoon, that barn burned to the ground as family members, neighbors, and Billy watched.
Lee Schultz, Rosemary’s son, who also lives at the residence, said the barn was a retired milking barn built in 1973 by the late Howard Schultz, Rosemary’s husband and Lee’s father.
Recently, the structure served as a home for Billy and several cats, and doubled as storage for 3,000 bales of hay, two snowmobiles, three lawnmowers, a boat, and antiques.
“It was the one thing on the farm you could always see,” said Lee Schultz. “You could see it from the highway.”
Today, a silo and windmill still stretch to the sky, but only charred support beams and mangled tin siding remain as a reminder of the barn that stood for 39 years.
The farm was started in 1935 by Lee Schultz’s grandfather, Clarence. Howard Schultz took over the duties in the 1950s, and bought the farm from his father in 1977. The family milked 40 cows in the building until 1995.
The Wright County Sheriff’s Office reported that, while on a routine traffic stop on Highway 12 near Aetna Ave. SE Tuesday afternoon, a Minnesota State Patrol unit noticed smoke in the area and responded. On his arrival at the Schultz farm, the trooper located the barn, which was fully engulfed in flames, and radioed the sheriff’s office at 2:46 p.m.
A Wright County deputy sheriff and fire departments from Montrose, Delano, Waverly, and Buffalo were dispatched to the location.
“By the time we got there, half the barn was gone,” said Montrose Fire Chief Jason Chaffins.
It was the first structure fire in the Montrose Fire Department’s jurisdiction this year. Montrose has served as mutual aid for several other calls.
The departments managed to get the Montrose blaze under control, but the barn and everything inside it was a total loss. Billy was safe, but at least four of his feline friends perished.
Two cats have been seen wandering the farm, but Lee Schultz believes there are more alive because of the amount of food that is disappearing.
The Montrose Fire Department remained at the scene dousing the bales of hay with water as a backhoe from Carlson Construction in Buffalo pulled them out of the structure, until 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Battling a fire with hay bales involved can be difficult, according to Chaffins.
“It’s difficult because the hay is so packed together,” Chaffins explained. “The hay was in a hayloft up top and it caved into the barn. The structure was not really safe to go in there and dig around, so we needed heavy equipment.”
The wind rekindled the fire in the hay a full day-and-a-half later, and Montrose was called back to the farm around 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning. The department remained at the scene until about 4 a.m.
Chaffins said close to 60,000 gallons of water were used on the blaze.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Lee Schultz hinted that its origin was in Billy’s pen, where an electric water bowl sits.
“A lot of people say he was rubbing two sticks together because he wanted a new place to live,” Lee Schultz joked about Billy.
By late last week, Billy had found a new home, in Buffalo.