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DIMMITT, Texas (KLBK|KAMC) – A county judge described the scene after a fiery explosion at a Texas dairy farm Monday night as “terrible” and “devastating.”

“The number of animals that were lost and the barn that was lost,” Castro County Judge Mandy Gfeller said. “I believe that financially, it’s just devastating and catastrophic.”

According to Castro County, the number of cattle that died in the fire at the South Fork Dairy had been estimated at 18,000. Officials were still working to confirm that number Thursday morning. Nexstar was also working to independently verify the figure with the business but had not been able to reach them at publication time.

The Castro County Sheriff’s Office said one employee was inside the dairy building when the explosion happened, but firefighters were able to get her out. She was to be flown to University Medical Center to be treated for critical injuries. 

Gfeller said the tragedy could’ve been worse if not for emergency personnel.

“We’re thankful for our first responders as well as the neighboring counties who sent aid so quickly,” Gfeller said. “I commend their swift response and quick thinking to help save those lives.”

Gfeller said South Fork Dairy is one of the county’s largest businesses, so the damage goes beyond just the facility.

“It employed citizens of our county, and that could impact those citizens, as far as jobs go, it could impact our tax base for our county and other municipalities and taxing entities,” Gfeller said. “They’re going to have to rebuild in order to be able to sustain that portion.”

As the county continues to navigate the tragedy, Gfeller said the community outpouring has been inspiring.

“In both times of loss and celebration, we have a very great community that supports others,” Gfeller said. “While the loss of so many animals is devastating, I am so thankful that there was no loss of human life, and I’m just praying for complete restoration for South Fork Dairy.”

The cause of the disaster is still unknown, and an investigation is underway.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Castro County has 15 dairies that produce 148,000 pounds of milk a month, making it the second-highest milk-producing county in Texas.