By Leigh Ann Rutledge
WAYNESBURG – Thanks to quick thinking and help from friends, daily milking continues for the Lois Frase family after a fire severely damaged the milk house March 18.
The farm is located at 6647 June Rd., Waynesburg, where Lois and her late husband, Ray, farmed. Their children assist her in operating the farm. Dennis (Rammie) works full-time on the farm, while brothers Gary (Robin) and Kenneth (LuAnne) and sister, Kelly Frase, work off the farm and pitch in daily. All the Frase siblings live on an area of the farm.
The cattle were inside the barn waiting to be milked and hay was stacked in the upstairs of the barn when the fire occurred.
Lois Frase headed to the barn to begin morning milking around 6 a.m. and walked into the milk house like any other day. She saw the clock lying on the floor and wondered why it had fallen down. Then she saw smoke. Seeing fire in the ceiling, she quickly went outside, closed the door and dialed 911.
Chloe, Dennis and Rammie’s youngest daughter, spent the night with Lois and called her Uncle Gary. When he answered the phone, Gary said he knew he was running late. “No Uncle Gary, there is a fire,” Chloe told him. He and girlfriend, Robin, rushed over. Gary turned off the gas, grabbed the fire extinguishers and tried to cut the flames down. They went into the barn that was so thick with smoke, they couldn’t hardly see to walk.
The fire department arrived within minutes.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s office received the call about the fire at 5:56 a.m. Mohawk Valley Joint Fire District was toned by dispatchers. They requested mutual aid from Dellroy and Carrollton Village fire departments and a tanker truck from Great Trail Fire District, along with several other departments.
The fire was so hot it melted the rubber on the bulk tank and damaged the milkers. They called their milk field representative and lined up a hauler to remove the milk but it was not good and had to be dumped down the drain. They were able to use the equipment to milk Sunday and Monday morning but had to dump that milk also. All together, they lost six milkings of milk.
Dennis, Rammie and daughter, Shelbi, were at the Beef Expo in Columbus when he received a call from Kelly. Realizing things were handled, they remained at the expo until Shelbi completed.
Josh Lee, a Magnolia firefighter, was on the scene of the fire. Also a farmer, he and his wife, Katie, and parents, Kevin and Connie, stopped milking cows about three years ago. Their double-10 milking parlor was not being used. After the fire department left, Josh told Katie about the fire and said if they needed anything for them to call him. Katie attends Magnolia United Methodist Church with Kenneth and his family. The Frases needed a place to milk their cows.
Kevin and Josh taught the Frases how to use the computerized parlor system and their cows stayed in a loafing area.
When asked about offering the use of the parlor, Josh said, “It’s farmers helping farmers. It’s how we get through these kinds of things.”
A state inspector and representative from Wooster Dairy checked the Lee parlor and approved it for milking. After school Monday, the family began moving the cows to Lee’s farm. It took seven trips to move the 55 head. Kevin and Josh Lee helped push the cattle in the parlor area since they were unfamiliar with the setup. The Frase’s use a pipeline and milk cattle in their stalls. Lois is the only one who cannot milk in the parlor because she is not tall enough to reach the milkers.
“It is different milking in the parlor,” said Dennis. “The cows have had a time adjusting but they are doing well.”
They go to Lee’s farm twice a day to milk, plus they haul hay and feed over and a couple fresh cows to begin milking. A friend donated a trailer for them to use to haul the feed. Along with these chores, they ran into an issue when Dennis broke his hand.
The cows back into the stall to be milked in the parlor set-up. In order to help keep the milkers and people clean, there is a plate under the cow’s tail to catch manure. Shelbi was putting milkers on a cow April 22. The front inflation kept coming off and the cow was kicking. Dennis went to help. He placed his right hand on the cow’s knee and kicked her leg forward, smashing his hand between her knee and the bottom of the plate. It required surgery to put three screws in his hand and his arm was placed in a sling. He was not allowed to use the hand/arm for two weeks.
He taught Shelbi how to wash up and operate the parlor. During the week before his surgery, she was milking twice a day and going to school.
Gary, along with his siblings, is working on rebuilding the milk house, updating it to current codes. An attached shed has been opened up to make a larger milk house and allowed them to reposition the milk tank.
During an April 29 interview with The FPS, Lois said, “The good Lord didn’t let it go any further. Five more minutes and it would’ve all been gone.”
In the milk house, Dennis points out new 2×6-foot boards lining what was the outside wall of the milk house, which attaches to the side of the barn.
“See those three 2x6s closest to the barn wall?” Dennis asked. “The second and third one out were charred. If fire would have gotten to the one closest to the barn, it would have ignited the hay.”
The family is very appreciative of all the help they have received. Family friend Cole Healy and Jeff Matthews, their hired hand, have been very helpful.
“We appreciate everyone and everything being done to help us,” the family stated.
“We are grateful to the Lee family for allowing us to milk there,” Dennis added.
Lois sums it up saying, “We don’t wish this one anyone. We just thank the good Lord everyday.”
Dennis and family traveled to the Lee Farm May 11 for the morning milking – the last milking at the Lee Farm.
The milkhouse on the family farm was now ready for use. Anything usable from before, including the pipeline, had to be cleaned and cleaned again and again. The new tank is set and complete new milking units with detachers and all, is hanging ready for use. The state inspector approved the work and gave the okay to begin milking once again.
The family hauled the cows back to June Rd. and milked in their own barn Friday night.
While at the Lee farm, the cows were loose in a shed. Now back at home, they come into the barn and are hooked up in stanchions.
“The older cows know where their stanchions are and went right in,” Dennis explained. “Some of the other cows backed out and took off when we tried to hook them up. Someone has to stand behind them.”
He noted it will take them a few days to adjust back to the old routine. However, he did admit, they have about eight first calf heifers who came fresh and were broke to milk in the parlor and have never been in a stanchion.
“It is nice, getting back in the groove, back in a normal routine,” said Dennis.