Five thousand hens are dead and a barn is rubble following a fire at Kokomo Farms, just east of Steinbach.
“It is a disappointment. I had a good flock, they were laying good, so this is really a shocker,” said owner Manuel Giesbrecht. “It’s sad, but we will try to recover.”
Giesbrecht learned of the fire last Thursday when an employee called him to say there was smoke in the broiler-breeder barn. He returned to the farm as quickly as possible, but by the time he arrived, little remained of the barn.
“There were no flames when I got there, but the barn was 90 per cent gone, almost nothing was left,” he said, adding he has lost 50 per cent of his poultry operation to the blaze.
Giesbrecht has farmed at that location since 1992, and said the barn was built that same year. Insurance is expected to cover rebuilding costs, but it may be too difficult to begin work before the weather warms up in the spring.
“We have no damage estimate yet, we are just working to get someone to clean up the mess before it all freezes solid,” he said, adding he was thankful no one was injured.
Wayne Hiltz, executive director of the Manitoba Chicken Producers, said barn fires are rare, but when they do occur the damage can be significant.
If not for the speedy response by the La Broquerie Fire Department the situation could have been much worse, he said.
“The fire department reacted quickly and did a good job saving other birds that were on that farm by keeping it contained to the one barn,” he said.
Assistant fire chief, J.C. Normandeau, said 18 members of the department responded but that the barn was fully involved by the time they arrived, with flames shooting through the roof.
“We always work to contain the fire whether it’s a building with people or with animals,” he said, but added that barn fires can bring additional hazards, such as explosive materials and nearby fuel tanks.
The cause of the Jan. 2 fire is still being investigated by the Office of the Fire Commissioner, but Giesbrecht said he’s been told it was electrical in nature. Foul play is not suspected.
Hiltz said that dust can be a factor in poultry barn fires, noting that breeder barns are only “blown down” to remove dust every 42 weeks, while other poultry operations see barns cleaned out approximately every seven weeks. However, this is the first breeder barn fire he has seen in his nine years on the job.
Whatever the exact cause, the executive director noted the loss of animals can be difficult for a producer.
“The farmer has got a lot of time and energy invested in this, and obviously the physical loss of the barn is colossal, and the birds, I mean farmers care about their animals, they don’t like to see them suffer and obviously in a case like this, with the birds in the barn, it’s obvious what happens to them when there is a fire,” Hiltz said. “That’s hard on a producer’s mentally as well, and sometimes that gets lost in everything.”