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Livestock building destroyed by fire

The Tri-County Livestock Auction building, one mile west of Motley on Highway 10, was destroyed by a fire Sunday evening. Photo by Bette Johnson

The complete loss of the Tri-County Livestock Auction Barn, one mile west of Motley, by fire Sunday night has not made life any easier for Manager Wayne Hoffman.

A state fire marshal and three of his investigators were still examining the site Wednesday morning, as Hoffman wrestled with the problems of keeping the business running and customers informed.

"We're going to rebuild all right, but it will take some time," Hoffman said. "People should call and we'll direct them to the best of our ability."

Tri-County has been a fixture in the central Minnesota community for four decades. It was built in 1981 by Hoffman and his partner, John Eischeid.

The pair sold the barn in 1999 to Joe Varner. They now manage the business for Varner and own the feed yard.

Varner also owns Rich Prairie Livestock in Pierz, and Hoffman said Tri-County's Wednesday auctions will be held there until the Motley facility is rebuilt.

Motley Fire Chief Dan Greig was one of the firefighters at the scene Sunday night after Mike James, who works for Tri-County in the winter months, noticed the fire at around 8:48 p.m.

In addition to 17 Motley firefighters at the scene, firefighters from Staples and Scandia Valley were also on hand to battle the blaze. The three fire departments used 19 trucks in their firefighting efforts, Greig said.

Attempts to reach the attic spaces above the cafeteria, where the fire is believed to have started, were difficult because of the layout of the building, Greig said.

While the cause of the fire is still not known, Grieg said that in his experience, when fires begin in attic spaces, they are generally the result of chimney or electrical problems.

Hoffman said he did not believe a chimney problem started the fire.

"We had no chimney in that section of the building," Hoffman said.

The three fire departments were on the scene until almost 3 a.m. Monday, Greig said.

Verndale beef producer Don Johnson has been doing business with Tri-County Auction since it opened. He intends to continue taking his cattle to Motley.

"They sell thousands of head there," Johnson said. "I usually sell around 40 head of feeder cattle there every year."

On Wednesday morning, Hoffman was busy on the phone with livestock owners who had questions about Tri-County's plans. The location of the auction business draws beef, hog and sheep producers from a large area.

"We take in a big swath, about 150-175 miles," Hoffman said.

Hoffman added that no one was hurt in the fire and none of the cattle in pens near the auction building were harmed.