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Fire destroys Nop farm equipment; animals are OK

SALISBURY — Work was returning to normal at the Nop Brothers and Sons Farm in Salisbury this week after a big fire claimed the equipment barn off Route 7 this past Friday night. The new normal, that is, in which the family and their farm workers must take hours of extra time feeding the more than 600 cows they milk each day.
No people or animals were injured in the blaze, which drew firefighters from eight area departments, but the farm lost four critical feed trucks, two skid steers and a tractor that were all used in feeding the cows.
“It was devastating because we have nothing to feed the cows with,” said Melissa Nop on Tuesday.
The trucks are called mixer trucks because workers would dump in silage and minerals, then the trucks would combine the feed like cement mixers and distribute it to the cows. Nop farmworker Mike Sullivan told WCAX-TV that the trucks go for $150,000 apiece. A chore that didn’t take long with equipment now stretches into three hours.
Nop said the farm was insured, but the nearest mixer trucks they could find for sale were in Texas.
The local farm community rallied; Nop said the Audets in Bridport and Champlain Valley Equipment in Middlebury loaned them some feed wagons.
The Nops called in the fire at around 10 p.m. when one of Bill Nop’s daughters spotted flames coming from what the family called the commodity shed. Salisbury Fire Chief Gary Smith was among the first firefighters on site.
“It was really going when I got there,” he said. “It was fully involved.”
Firefighters from Salisbury, Middlebury, Whiting, Ripton, Brandon, New Haven, Bristol and Cornwall all responded to the alarm, Smith said.
“I’d say there were about 50 or 60 guys there,” he said.
They got the fire knocked down within the first hour, but firefighters were on the scene through the night, and Smith said he didn’t leave until noon on Saturday.
The fuel in the tanks of the vehicles contributed to the speed with which the fire consumed the building, Smith said. Also, there were 212 large round bales of second-cut hay in the shed that also burned, which kept the fire going. The burned hay was still smoking Saturday afternoon, and the Nops hauled it down the road because it was bothering the cows. Smith said Salisbury firefighters returned then to wet it down and make sure the fire didn’t reignite.
A state fire inspector is investigating the cause of the fire, though it is not believed to be suspicious. Smith said it wasn’t official, but he believed that the fire started in a skid steer given the pattern of the flames.
It’s hard to say what the economic impact of the fire will be, but the Nops don’t plan on letting go any workers because of the blaze. In fact, they didn’t even miss milking any cows. Melissa Nop said that as the firefighters were putting out the fire, farmworkers were sorting out the dry cows and then got the milkers into the parlor to milk at about 11:15 p.m. Friday night.
She wasn’t sure if the loss of the 200 large bales of hay would mean the farm has to purchase hay this coming winter, but Nop did say it was a real nice cut.
She didn’t think last week’s fire would have the cost of the 2008 fire at the Gagnon Farm (owned by the Nops), which is south on Route 7. The blaze was smaller than Friday’s fire, Smith said, but it destroyed a milking parlor and lot of expensive equipment, Nop said.
And, although no animals were injured on Friday, it could easily have cost the lives of the 18 Angus calves who were penned next to the shed. Hank Nop, the first person on the scene, tried to get to the calves, but the fire was already so hot that he couldn’t get close enough to free them.
So the calves busted down the gate and made it to safety.
“My older boys, they feed those calves,” Melissa Nop said. “They were very happy that (the calves) were alive.
“It’s a blessing.”
She added that the family’s strong faith in divine providence would pull them through this trying time.
“God is good, and we continue to put our faith and trust in Him all the time and especially at this time,” Nop said.

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