Fire kills hens at Euroa poultry farm

By Ashlea Witoslawski

A Euroa free-range egg farm has been left devastated after fire swept through one of its chicken pens early on Monday, October 28.

Home to about 19,000 hens, Strathbogie Poultry managing director Philip Szepe said the fire was a "terrible loss" for the farm.

“The chickens were put in the pen around 9pm to keep them secure overnight,” Mr Szepe said.

Although the exact time the fire started is unknown, workers called triple zero when they began their shift about 5.40am.

The call reported smoke billowing from the 145m x 19m shed on Drysdale Rd, Euroa.

Thirteen firefighting vehicles attended the scene from Shepparton, Euroa, Miepoll, Longwood, Branjee and Molka, with the blaze brought under control about 6.15am.

CFA District 22 commander Travis Harris said the fire had resulted in a total loss of the shed.

“It was a complicated incident because when we were attempting to extinguish the fire with water it was reacting with chook manure, which was spread around 200mm thick throughout the shed, resulting in a by-product of ammonia and other dangerous gases,” Mr Harris said.

“The size of the shed and nature of the fire posed significant issues in terms of fire suppression.

“At no point were the structures surrounding the shed under threat because we had it contained to the structure of origin.”

Mr Szepe said the shed was one of four on the free-range egg farm, housing about two per cent of the farm's hens.

He said they suspected the fire was caused by an electrical fault inside the shed, however investigations were ongoing.

“These hens would lay about 8000 dozen (eggs) per week so it's a significant loss for the business,” he said.

“We've never had a fire in the 50 years we've been doing this, so we're just hoping to learn from this experience and to move on with business as usual as soon as possible.”

Mr Harris said the manure would continued to smoulder and fire crews would be required to be on the scene at all times over the next few days to monitor the site.

“At this stage we are going to re-evaluate on a daily basis and watch how the manure breaks down,” he said.

“We do know the approximate location of where the fire has started, but due to the continued smouldering, investigators have not been able to enter the building and conduct an assessment.”

Mr Szepe said it was quite a traumatic experience for the staff who cared for the hens on a daily basis.

“It's a really emotional experience and difficult to have such a loss,” he said.

“It's devastating but at least nobody was hurt or injured.”

Mr Szepe thanked the CFA for its support and for stopping the fire from spreading across the property and into other sheds.

“They were fantastic and provided great support on the day, even though they couldn't save the structure, it was safer to let it burn out.”

Clean up is set to begin at the property next week after investigations are complete.