Brott Auction and Gothenburg Livestock building owner Wendell Brott said he was only gone for about 45 minutes, when he returned to see his livelihood burning to the ground.
"You can see from the results, it pretty well put it on the ground, a total loss with the structure," said State Fire Marshal Investigator Ryan Sylvester.
The building caught fire around 4:30 p.m. Monday. Cozad, Brady and Gothenburg firefighters were all on scene. Brott said when firefighters got to the barn and opened the doors, flames came shooting out. He said there was livestock on the property, but fortunately they're safe and secure in a back pen. It took firefighters more than five hours to put out the fire.
Brott said his family has owned the business for more than 20 years and the building itself has been there since at least the 1930s. The Brotts didn't want to speak on-camera, saying the loss was a lot to deal with. It's a sentiment their friends and neighbors understand.
"I know they've put their heart and their soul into it, and as it would be with anything anyone's involved in, it's tough to see their hard work and their baby, if you will, go up in flames yesterday. I know it was a very emotional time," said Gothenburg rancher Jared Slaegel, a family friend.
Gothenburg residents said the business was a central part of the community, a local historic landmark.
"Definitely a fixture in the community that has been here a very long time. And for anyone that has any ties to agriculture, Wednesdays were the day to come have a cup of coffee or have a hot meal and watch the cow sale for a little bit," Slaegel said.
That loss was especially felt by those in agriculture.
"It's a big thing for people that live in Dawson County, Custer and Frontier and Lincoln, and the surrounding counties. A large percentage of those folks, as farmers and ranchers, bring their livestock here," explained Slaegel.
For now, the owners say they'll probably direct customers to livestock barns in Lexington or Ogallala.
The Brotts said they're waiting for the State Fire Marshal and the insurance company to finish their investigations. They said they will then decide whether to rebuild the historic Gothenburg landmark.
The following statement was released by the Nebraska State Fire Marshal's Office on March 1, 2013:
"The fire at the Gothenburg Sale Barn is not suspected of being criminal. The State Fire Marshal’s Office coordinated with the insurance company to do further analysis. Results of the analysis were inconclusive and the cause of this fire is undetermined."