Egg farm says its can source enough eggs for customers after fire

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Neil Johnson
Monday, February 3, 2014

WHITEWATER—A rural Whitewater egg farm is working to secure enough eggs to supply its customers after a massive fire at the farm destroyed a hen barn and killed 280,000 chickens last week.

S&R Egg Farm spokesman Dan Gorecki said the farm plans to rebuild a three-story egg-production barn destroyed Friday in a fire that killed more than one-tenth of the 2.4 million hens at the farm at 9416 N. Tamarack Road southeast of Whitewater.

Gorecki said the farm is bringing in eggs from outside sources to supply customers, and he said the egg farm was running at a “fairly normal” capacity Monday.

“From a standpoint of operations, we're running a fairly normal day. We are down one building. We've got sources to get eggs to make sure our customers won't have a shortage from the farm,” Gorecki said.

Gorecki said pending an evaluation by the S&R Egg Farm's insurance company, he was unable to give a cost estimate of the damage from the fire. He said a cause was still unknown.

The barn, which housed chickens in cages on three floors, erupted in flames about 7:30 p.m. Friday, officials said. It was one of 14 hen barns at the farm, all of which are outfitted with conveyors and equipment to move eggs, feed hens and clean away manure, Gorecki said.

The barn that burned was at its full capacity, and had 280,000 chickens inside, Gorecki confirmed.

Firefighters from several fire agencies from three counties poured more than 500,000 gallons of water onto the hen barn in a massive, four-alarm firefight that spanned Friday night into late morning Saturday.

Fire crews returned to the smoldering building shell Sunday, fire officials said.

Fire investigators still were working to learn a cause, but as of Saturday afternoon, fire officials seemed doubtful they would learn much about what sparked the fire.

The fire was so hot and did so much damage to the hen barn that Lauderdale-La Grange Assistant Fire Chief Dave Nelson on Saturday said “I don't know if they'll ever know (a cause) due to the destruction.”

The fire did not affect the farm's egg-handling and packaging divisions or company offices, which are on a different part of the 800-acre farm, Gorecki said.

Gorecki said workers run daily inspections of chicken cages and monitor conditions in each of the farm's hen barns. He said the company plans to build a new barn to replace the one that burned “soon,” but he wasn't sure exactly when construction could occur.

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