DIMMITT, Texas – Castro County Judge Mandy Gfeller described the scene over at South Fork Dairy as terrible and devastating after a fiery explosion on Monday night. Gfeller said the  tragedy could’ve been even worse if it weren’t for the community’s heroes.

“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.”

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. The victim was to be flown to University Medical Center where she’s being treated for critical injuries. 

According to Castro County, an estimated 18,000 cattle died in the fire.

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

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. The investigation is currently underway with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.