Nearly 250,000 chickens killed in Florida egg farm barn fire

DADE CITY, Fla. — Nearly 250,000 chickens died when fire swept through three barns at a Florida egg farm early Thursday, authorities said.

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Crews from Pasco Fire Rescue responded at about 1 a.m. at Cal-Maine Foods in Dade City, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Officials said three large barns, which hold 80,000 chickens each, caught fire and killed the chickens. Officials at the egg farm estimated the loss at more than $1 million, WFLA reported.

No people were injured, and there was no immediate word on what caused the fire, the Times reported.

“Some of the equipment is powered by propane so we’re having. … You’ll hear large explosions, those are the propane tanks that are bleving (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion) at this time,” Shawn Whited, of Pasco Fire Rescue, told WFLA.

Firefighters were also hampered in controlling the blaze since the nearest fire hydrant is three miles from the farm, the television station reported.

“We are out in the country. There’s not a lot of infrastructure here. We’re having to use tanker trucks,” Whited told reporters. “These chicken coops are very large structures. There’s a lot of fire in there and the fire is deep into those buildings.”

Cal-Maine is the largest producer and distributor of shell eggs in the United States, according to its website. The company sold nearly one in five of all shell eggs in the United States during 2020. It sells the eggs under brand names that include Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’Lakes, according to the company’s website.

Max Bowman, chief financial officer and vice president of Cal-Maine, told the Times that the Dade City farm only contains pullets, which are young birds that have not yet started producing eggs but have graduated from the hatchery.

“We’re fully insured,” Bowman told the newspaper. He added that the company’s bird and business income loss would be covered.