A semi-truck hauling a trailer full of cattle caught on fire early Saturday just south of Fort Pierre on U.S. Highway 83.
But hold the barbecued beef comments. The calves are cool.
Fort Pierre Fire Chief Cody Lengkeek said the call came in just after midnight Friday.
“We had a semi fire just south of town, about two, two-and-a-half miles up the hill south of Fort Pierre,” said Lengkeek.
It was a Peterbilt out of Minnesota hauling about 60 feeder calves in an aluminum livestock trailer, he said.
The engine compartment was ablaze.
“The trucker got it stopped alongside the road and opened up the hood,” Lengkeek said. “It was something electrical, possibly, in nature. By the time we got on the scene, the engine compartment and part of the cab were on fire and it was spreading into the sleeper.”
It would have been bad if the wind had been worse.
“We had 50,000 pounds of cattle on board,” Lengkeek said. “They would have been (in danger) if we didn’t get the fire out.”
Stanley County Sheriff’s deputies had been on the scene and were getting set to turn the cattle loose so they didn’t get hurt, Lengkeek said. “The deputies were just about ready to open the gates and let them out and we got there and got a good hit on the fire.”
He had about 15 volunteer firefighters respond and the fire was quickly tamped down and the prospect of burned bovines faded fast. “It was out very, very quick,” Lengkeek said.
But the truck itself, cab and engine, appeared to be a total wreck and for sure wasn’t up for truckin’.
So something had to be done with the cattle in the trailer and nobody was hoping for a night-time cattle drive down Highway 83..
“We did just happen to have another semi coming down the hill and he came up and offered to offload them on to his semi and return them to the sales barn,” Lengkeek said.
The fire chief figured the cattle had come from the Fort Pierre Livestock Auction which had finished its big Friday sale just hours before.
But Dennis Hanson, owner of the Fort Pierre sale barn, said the truck of cattle actually had come “from up north, the Herreid sales barn.” He said the calves were headed south to feedlots to be fattened up.
The tractor-less cattle were, apparently, penned in Fort Pierre for a time until the owner could arrange other transportation, Hanson said. But he was so busy Saturday with a cow sale he didn’t get the particulars.
Anyway, the roadside transfer went pretty slick, Lengkeek said: the working truck just backed up his trailer end-to-end with the cattle-full one, the ramps were extended out to each other and the no-doubt sleepy calves quickly walked from one trailer to the other.
The trucker will have to get a new Peterbilt.
“The truck was probably a total loss, I would say,” Lengkeek said.
It was part of a busy Saturday for his volunteer department, he said.
Just as the 34 firefighters and their families and friends were gathering for the annual steak fry and awards dinner at the fire hall, a call came in.
A small SUV had rear-ended a Chevy pickup truck north of town on Highway 1806 North at about 6 p.m. Both drivers were taken by ambulance to Avera St. Mary’s Hospital with injuries, he said.
“We just mainly shut down the highway,” he said. “There was no fire, no extrication.”
On their way back to the fire hall, another call, at the intersection on U.S. Highways 14 and 83 near Perkins Restaurant and the Waldron Bridge.
“A lady fell off a motorcycle,” Lengkeek said. “We stopped and assisted.” The woman, a passenger on the bike, apparently was not wearing a helmet and was taken by ambulance to the hospital with “non-life-threatening” injuries.
Then it was back to the steak fry and awards.
Saturday morning firefighters responded to a false alarm at the AmericInn, he said.
“It was a very, very busy Saturday.”