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More than 20 pigs killed in central MN barn fire

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A barn fire in Manannah Township killed more than 20 pigs late Monday night.

It happened in Manannah Township, a small town between St. Cloud and Wilmar, in Meeker County.

Mark Ruhland, the owner, told responders the 44- by 52-foot barn contained 20 sows, an unknown number of piglets and 1,000 bales of straw, according to the Meeker County Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff's department says the fire only affected the barn and no one was injured; however, the barn and its contents were declared a total loss.

The State Fire Marshall is investigating. So far officials say the fire does not appear to be suspicious, and may be linked to a heat source.

Causes of barn fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 20 percent of barn fires were caused by heat sources in their 2006-2010 study. In that time, there were more than 800 barn fires total. Other possible causes the report noted include electric equipment, fire exposure and chemical reactions.

The association notes the number of barn fires has consistently decreased since the 1980s. Even so, a 2005 study says barn fires are responsible for $32.4 million in property damages across the U.S.

Baled straw and hay can spontaneously combust if they aren't stored correctly. Washington State University says that happens because excess moisture can cause the bales to heat up and start on fire.

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