April 27–LEBANON — At least 80,000 chickens have been killed in a fire that consumed a large coop at Kofkoff Egg Farms, and firefighters from several communities were battling the blaze Tuesday night.
It was too dark to begin investigating the cause of the fire at the farm, the largest egg producer in New England, by the time the fire was out, Fire Marshal Scott Schuett said Wednesday morning. Local and state investigators planned to begin sifting through the rubble at 8 a.m.
The state police Fire and Explosion Investigative Unit will assist “due to the size of the fire and the size of the loss,” Schuett said. The farm has millions of birds producing eggs.
The fire destroyed one of 13 coops at the company’s facility on Mack Road in Lebanon. A witness said that the fire was contained to one coop and that firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading to nearby coops.
No injuries were reported among firefighters or workers at the farm.
Smoke was visible for miles as about 150 firefighters from 25 fire departments battled the blaze inside the airplane-hangar-sized coop and worked to establish a steady water supply.
Kofkoff Egg Farms LLC has operations in Bozrah, Colchester, Lebanon and Franklin and employs about 300 people. The company is a subsidiary of Moark, one of the nation’s biggest egg producers. A company official reached Tuesday evening declined to comment.
More than 100 firefighters from communities throughout eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island were aiding Lebanon firefighters. Water to fight the fire was an issue and water tanker task forces were shuttling water to the scene. The fire went to a sixth alarm about 9 p.m., but by about 9:30 p.m. was declared 90 percent contained. The fire was reported at 5:41 p.m.
Lebanon First Selectman Betsy Petrie, who is also a deputy fire chief, said there was a fire at the farm in 1989. “We have some experience,” she said.
Tuesday’s fire came 27 years to the day after a fire at Kofkoff Farms killed 216,000 chickens. That fire, which began in a corner of a coop, was most likely caused by faulty electrical equipment, fire officials told The Hartford Courant at the time, according to archived articles.
The 13 coops on the property at the time of Tuesday’s fire were connected with a conveyor belt system, Petrie said. The system was shut down to prevent the fire from spreading to the other coops.
Heather Davis, a Lebanon resident who volunteers with an animal rescue organization, said she went to the farm to lend a hand and to organize volunteers if they were needed. She said her offer was rebuffed by company officials who ordered her off the property.
“I was just there to be that person if we needed to start getting things going,” Davis said. She said was not there to judge, but to help. “Clearly they were very, very uncomfortable with that,” she said.
Courant Staff Writer Christine Dempsey contributed to this report.
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