Barn fire

About 150 cows died in the Union blaze. (Laura Meader/CBC)

A dairy barn fire last Friday in Union, near Elmsdale P.E.I., in which the building was levelled and most of the cows died inside, was caused by an overheated hay escalator part, says the provincial fire marshal.

The blaze started when a bearing overheated on an escalator as hay was being loaded into the loft, said fire marshal David Rossiter.

"Once the bearing overheats, any loose straw or chaff in that area, that material is highly combustible — I'm not saying flammable — but highly combustible. And once you have an extensive amount of heat and it comes in contact with that combustible material, you then have a fire," said Rossiter.

"The other issue that was at play in this particular incident was that there was an open hatch and the extremely high winds that we had during that period aided in the rapid spread of the fire throughout the building."

The barn was insured and owner, Kent Rennie, said he plans to rebuild in the spring.

He said about 140 to 150 cows died in the blaze.

Seven surviving cows were sent to another farm. Two other cows came out of the woods after the fire.

A veterinarian checked over the surviving cows and two had to be put down because of smoke inhalation, said Rennie.

He said his family has been overwhelmed by the support and help provided by firefighters and people in the area.