Recap: US egg industry barn fires

Five of the seven fires accounted for a loss of approximately 1.4 million hens.

Two barns and about 165,000 hens were lost in a fire at Hickman's Family Farms location near Arlington, Arizona. (Buckeye Valley Fire District | Facebook)
Two barns and about 165,000 hens were lost in a fire at Hickman's Family Farms location near Arlington, Arizona. (Buckeye Valley Fire District | Facebook)

Barn fires continue to be a problem for the U.S. egg laying industry. Seven fires were reported in the egg industry by WATTPoultry since January 3, 2020. Five of the seven fires accounted for an estimated loss of 1.4 million hens. Here is a look back at the fires reported in a little over a year.

2021

Hickman’s Family Farms lost about 165,000 hens and two barns in a fire that occurred on the afternoon of March 6. The fire occurred at the company’s farm near Arlington, Arizona, about 50 minutes west of Phoenix. The multiple fire crews on scene were able to contain the fire to two structures and keep the fire from spreading to adjacent structures. The Arizona Fire & Medical Authority also responded. One person, described as a civilian male adult, was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation.

2020

An early morning fire was reported on December 17 at a Cal-Maine Foods operation in Dade City, Florida. According to a report from ABC Action News, the fire was reported around 11 a.m. by a person who lived on the property. Three barns were destroyed, each of which had chickens inside. It was estimated that at least 250,000 birds were killed. Pasco County Fire Chief Shawn Whited told the news outlet that barn walls were collapsing and propane tanks created additional hazards, so firefighters performed their work from outside of the barns. Also, because the facility was in a rural area, there were no fire hydrants in the vicinity and water had to be trucked in.

The Daily Jefferson County Union reported that S&R Egg Farm facility purchased from Michael Foods in 1993 had a fire on October 3. At least one building was destroyed but no hens were lost in an egg farm fire that occurred around 3:30 a.m. near Palmyra, Wisconsin. On a message on the Palmyra Public Safety Department Facebook page, the agency said multiple crews throughout southern Wisconsin responded to the fire. According to the public safety department, the one building involved was a complete loss, but firefighters were able to protect all buildings housing animals, and no animals were injured. Also, no firefighters or citizens were injured.

A barn housing hens for Gemperle Farms was destroyed by a fire on April 23 in Stanislaus County, California. An estimated 280,000 hens died in the fire, a spokesperson for Gemperle Farms told the Turlock Journal. The fire was reported around 12:59 p.m. “The building was completely involved when I arrived, so anything that was inside is going to perish,” said Ceres Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Serpa. The barn measured about 200 feet by 400 feet. While on the scene, firefighters protected another structure in the vicinity, and had to contain several small spot fires that broke out in nearby fields.

Versova’s Trillium Farms of Croton, Ohio experienced a large fire at an egg facility on April 21. According to The Columbus Dispatch, a dispatcher for the Licking Country Sheriff’s Department said the call came in at 3:20 a.m. Multiple fire departments were called to the scene. The road was temporarily closed due to the fire. Trillium Farms released a statement saying they do not know what the cause of the fire was. “Several barns are affected, and we do not know the full scale of the loss. This is a terrible situation, and we are devastated by the loss of our hens,” the statement said.

A fire broke out at a Michael Foods facility located two miles west of Bloomfield, Nebraska, causing damages estimated at more than $2.5 million. According to a post on the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, a 911 call was received at 5:15 p.m. on February 27, in which fire and rescue units from the communities of Bloomfield, Creighton, Lindy, Osmond, Plainview and Wausa responded. Additionally, tankers from Central Valley Ag assisted. Post Holdings, the parent company of Michael Foods, issued a press release on the incident, stating that all employees were safely evacuated and no injuries were reported. Post Holdings estimated that the fire “impacted less than 5% of the layer population of Michael Foods’ internal and external network. While the company did not offer an estimate on how many birds were lost, a report from the Kearney Hub stated that one of the buildings was destroyed and about 400,000 hens were lost.

A large fire destroyed a barn and about 300,000 cage-free laying hens at a Konos egg farm in Otsego, Michigan, on January 3. Multiple fire departments responded to the incident, which started about 11 a.m. Farm spokesman Brian Burch told WWMT 50 people worked at the farm and were all safe, except for minor smoke inhalation. No other injuries were reported. While one barn was lost, firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from harming another barn, which housed about 250,000 hens, on the property. It took several hours to bring the fire under control.

To read each company's full profile click here.

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