4 animals killed after barn collapses in McHenry County during severe storms

Four animals were killed after a barn collapsed in McHenry County during a storm on Tuesday afternoon.

Dozens of animals were trapped underneath the rubble for several hours as emergency crews and the farm’s owners worked to rescue them.

At 2:35 p.m., the Harvard Fire Protection District responded to the 10800 block of Weidner Road in unincorporated Harvard, for a reported barn collapse with multiple animals inside.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found a fully collapsed, two-story 30' by 50' barn.

"The barn is completely leveled flat," said Chief John Kimmel, Harvard Fire Protection District.  

The family-owned farm is located about one mile south of the Wisconsin border, and its owners tell FOX 32 Chicago that the barn dates back to the early 1800s.

Neighbors say the storm rolled into the area quickly – and packed a punch.

"It got really dark and then it started hailing, and all of the sudden, within like a minute it was gone," said Mary Stefely, who lives nearby.

Neighbors, like Stefely, visited the barn Tuesday to find out if and how they could help.

"I was just so sad for all the animals," said Stefely.

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Due to the damage and debris, additional firefighters and heavy machinery were requested at the scene.

"Initially we were just trying to get a count from the homeowner on how many animals they were missing and where they could potentially be," said Kimmel.

It is unknown how many animals were inside the barn during the collapse; some were already outside of the structure. When the collapse occurred, a void was created on the lower level, which protected and saved nearly all the animals, the Harvard Fire Protection District said. 

"They found void spaces within the collapse they were hiding under," said Kimmel. "Most of them were standing up, the ones that we could get out were standing up underneath."

Firefighters were able to safely extricate a total of 24 sheep, 18 goats, 1 cow and multiple chickens and ducks.

Unfortunately, four animals were confirmed dead and two were unaccounted for.

The owner's home, located just feet away, remained untouched during the storm, and no human injuries were reported.  

The Harvard Fire Protection District said weather is believed to be a factor in the collapse.

The National Weather Service is sending a storm survey team to assess the damage Wednesday. At that time, they will determine whether the collapse was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds.