LITTLETON, Ill. (WGEM) -- An estimated 11,000 animals are believed to have been killed Wednesday in what is considered a multi-million dollar loss at a hog confinement fire in Schuyler County.
Two of four buildings on the property were destroyed. Dr. Bill Hollis, veterinarian for the confinement, estimates that 2,500-3,000 sows, roughly half of the confinement's sow population, was lost. (CLICK THE VIDEO LINK TO THE LEFT TO WATCH EXCLUSIVE RAW VIDEO FROM THE FIRE SCENE)
An estimated 9,000 piglets are also believed to have been destroyed in the fire.
"The fire fighters were able to save two of the four barns on site and no one was injured. We are all horribly saddened by the loss of nearly half of the sows," Hollis said.
First reports of fire at the Timberline, LLC owned confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) came in around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday.
"I arrived around 9 p.m. and it was one massive fireball," Brandon Sullivan, a Macomb resident who drove to the scene, said. "As soon as I came around the curve by Industry, you could see it."
"You could hear a lot of squealing."
A total of eight fire departments, including Vermont, Littleton, Industry, Rushville, Macomb, Adair and Ammitt Chalmers responded to the blaze.
Maher says the CAFO's manager was the first on the scene and saw how quickly the fire spread.
"I arrived at 11:30 p.m. and the farrowing barn was basically done," Tom Maher, an owner of the company, said. "The flames had already subsided. The breeding gestation barn was still at a minimal fire."
"The office was blazing pretty hard. There was no attempt to even save it, water was hard to come by and it wasn't worth wasting it."
Maher said that one building is still operational and that employees are working to deliver temporary electricity to continue some operations. The building employs somewhere between 18-21 people. Company officials say there's still plenty of work to do and those employees will keep their jobs.
The fire was extinguished around 1 a.m. Thursday, but access to the site is restricted to limit contamination and to allow fire crews to continue monitoring hot spots.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture have already been consulted about the clean up process. Company officials say any potentially dangerous or hazardous material will be removed.
Any of the incinerated sows that are acceptable will be rendered into fuel - while those sows that were too badly burned will be disposed of.
No cause has yet been determined on the fire. Officials from the Illinois Fire Marshall's office arrived Wednesday afternoon to begin investigations.
"There's a lot of questions right now, and not a lot of answers," Maher said.
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