Chester barn collapses under heavy snow; cows trapped

Firefighters and rescue personnel from fire departments based in Windsor and Rutland counties worked to rescue more than 40 cows at the Roman Way Farm in Chester Feb. 8. Heavy, wet snow-up to 12 inches in some places-fell during the night of Feb. 7-8.

The Chester farm is owned by veterinarian Dr. Roy Homan.

A 200-foot-long barn gave way before midnight Feb. 7; a quarter of it collapsed due to the heavy snow accumulated on the roof.

Fire Chief Steven Locke said at least 40 cows had been under the collapsed roof, buried in snow and debris. More than 20 cows were rescued by noon Feb. 8 with 15 cows still trapped under the collapsed portion of the free-stall barn at press time.

Dr. Roger Osinchuk, another Chester vet, was on the scene to help. He told reporters that the trapped animals were unable to stand but appeared to be doing well.

Neighbors and other Chester residents rushed to the farm to assist. Heritage Deli, Jiffy Mart, and Lisai's Market in Chester pitched in to help the family with food and drinks. American Red Cross of Vermont and the Green Mountain Chapter-Disaster Action Team personnel also arrived on the scene to provide aid.

"Several farms in Vermont have lost livestock to the barn collapses," Deputy Agriculture Secretary Diane Bothfeld said Feb. 8. "There has been no loss of human life, but there are often farm workers in the barn throughout the day and there is a real safety concern for them if a roof collapses while they are working."

Guidance for what constitutes a safe load of snow on a roof is based on a number of factors so is not the same for every dwelling. It depends on the age of the roof, the amount of snow on the roof, and the weight of that snow. Warm temperatures on Sunday and Monday have added to the weight of the snow.

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