A fire in an Australian genetics laboratory has caused 100 cryogenic cylinders containing bull semen to explode, destroying thousands of dollars worth of semen stock, according to Australian news outlets.
Firefighters were dispatched to the Yarram Herd Services in Gippsland, Victoria, around 3:00 am on Tuesday morning. It took responders two hours to contain the fire, according to Australia’s ABC News.
Gippsland firefighter commander Chris Loeschenkohl told ABC the situation presented unusual difficulties for the fire crews that fought the blaze.
“Firefighters went into a defensive mode initially to protect themselves, because there were also LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] cylinders at the neighboring property, and they did a magnificent job,” Loeschenkohl told ABC. “There was a couple of other flammable liquid cylinders stored within the building which did cause projectiles to exit the building.”
Bonnie Barkmeyer, a journalist with WIN News Gippsland who was on the scene, also reported that firefighters were threatened by “projectiles.”
Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire.
Yarram Herd Services has reportedly been in operation for 20 years, providing herd testing, freeze-branding, consultation, and artificial insemination to local farmers. Committee vice-chairman of the company, Aaron Thomas, told ABC that 100 cryogenic cylinders were lost in the fire. He said that each container was worth $340 to $685 USD, excluding semen, and “the semen inside them varies in price.”
“We’re coming into the AI [artificial insemination] season so there would have been substantial amounts of semen inside the tanks that we’ve lost, which was owned by our local farmers, and it can range in value from $5 ($3.40 USD) per straw to $95 ($65 USD) per straw,” Thomas told ABC.
Thomas told the news outlet many farmers had semen stock in the now-destroyed building. “It’s going to be a huge blow, especially for our farmers,” he said.