It's a devastating day for a family in Colchester County operating a dairy farm in Green Oaks after a fire broke out shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday.

Firefighters from eight departments were called to the commercial dairy barn, about 20 kilometres south of Truro, after the Green Oaks Dairy Farm caught fire.

Green Oaks excavator

An excavator cleared debris and rubble from the Green Oaks Dairy Farm fire. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

More than six tanker trucks hauled in water from several kilometres away at the Shubenacadie River. 

The milking herd didn't make it out of the barn, which has since collapsed. The number of cattle that died has not been confirmed. Some heifers were in a separate area and survived.

Family members and friends consoled each other near the charred remains of the building.

Tyler Ash, deputy fire chief with the Cobequid District Fire Brigade, says the call came in at about 9:15 a.m.

He says in addition to the eight brigades helping, three other fire departments were on standby Monday afternoon to ensure other communities remained covered. 

The structure of the barn and steel roof made it difficult for crews to attack the flames underneath. An excavator was on the scene clearing debris and rubble.

"Just a steel-framed barn, steel roof, steel walls. And it fell in on itself. So we couldn't actually get at the fire, we had to move some steel first," says Mitch Creelman, captain with the Cobequid District Fire Department.

By noon, crews were focussed on extinguishing the hot spots. The tanker trucks were making a continuous loop back from the river.

Dairy farm hit by fire0:30

Four silos are still standing at the dairy farm.

Volunteers brought in sandwiches, cookies and chili to feed the group.

"It breaks your heart, they lost so much," says Nancy Lake, who works with the Maitland Fire Department's auxiliary. It's breaking my heart and it's their livelihood."

She says small communities know how to rally together during a crisis and people wanted to show support for the family.

"Everybody will help you. Everybody is behind you. Even if you don't know the person, we're still there."