Barn fire at Ashland poultry operation kills 22,000 chickens

SAVANNAH - A large, Mennonite-owned layer poultry operation suffered major loses Monday when the chicken barn was destroyed by fire.

Barn owner Matthew Van Pelt was outside the barn mowing grass when he saw a fan blowing smoke out of the barn, which is located at 1255 Township Road 608 just north of Savannah. He opened the barn door to find a raging fire and called 911 at 11:27 a.m. By the time firefighters arrived, about 70 percent of the structure was engulfed in flames, Savannah fire chief Steve Dinsmore said.

Van Pelt said his father-in-law had about 22,200 layer chickens in the barn, along with eight skids of 10,800 eggs each. All the animals and eggs were lost.

According to Van Pelt, the chickens were not worth much as they had neared the end of their productivity and were going to be sent away in December. The barn itself, however, was an approximately $700,000 structure that was just built last November.

Van Pelt said he does not have commercial insurance coverage on the property.

"We're self-insured," Van Pelt explained, adding that the church always helps its own.

"We didn't decide yet, but I'm sure it's going to get rebuilt," Van Pelt said of the barn.

Van Pelt said a new flock of chickens is scheduled to arrive in about two weeks.

Firefighters from five companies and departments — Savannah, Ruggles-Troy, Nankin, Ashland and Tri-Community — battled the blaze for several hours. The crews had to work defensively from the outside of the barn because a manure pit underneath the barn posed a risk of structural collapse, Dinsmore said.

The Ashland County Sheriff's Office also assisted at the scene.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Dinsmore said the barn owner was last in the barn about 45 minutes before the fire was discovered. Van Pelt suspected the fire was electrical.

Dinsmore estimated firefighters would not clear the scene until about 5:30 p.m. as much of the rubble would need to be excavated after the fire was extinguished.


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