GRADY COUNTY, GA (WALB) –A fire that burned four chicken houses in Grady County was the work of an arsonist.
The fire caused nearly half a million dollars in damage and killed as many as 25-thousand chickens.
WALB News10's LeiLani Golden spoke with the firefighters who risked their lives.
Just a few ash-stained chickens are still alive in a hen house that should hold thousands.
"It was piles and piles of dead chickens," Chief Al Akridge of the Whigham Fire Department recalls. "I've never dealt with that type of stuff before. It was pretty upsetting for that many at one time."
A call came in just before midnight Monday about a large fire on Prevatte Road in Whigham.
"It's very uncommon," Akridge says. "I've been a volunteer firefighter about 24 years and we've never had a chicken house fire in our district."
Chief Wayne Hadden of Grady County Fire & Rescue adds, "It was obvious that it was a huge fire. You could see the orange glow in the sky from Cairo."
When firefighters arrived, they quickly realized the engulfed houses, each about 500-600 feet long, would be a challenge.
"Strategically, it's a lot to deal with. There's such a long pattern of fire," Akridge explains. "We rolled up with 3 trucks and had to call in a lot more trucks to help extinguish the fire."
Firefighters worked in windy, freezing temperatures for hours to minimize damage. They say a strong wind is usually unwelcome when battling a blaze. But this time it played into their favor by keeping the fire from spreading to the last chicken house.
"That made the effort to save that building full of birds much easier and less likely of a threat to catch fire," Hadden explains.
After the blaze was under control, an inspection revealed evidence of arson.
"I don't have a clue about why anyone would wanna do something like this," says Akridge. "It's upsetting. It weighs on you heavy knowing somebody put our lives on the line."
And firefighters say they make an extra effort to find out who is responsible in arsons to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Grady County Sheriff's investigators called in the state fire marshal to assist with the arson investigation.
A private insurance investigator also accessed the damage Wednesday, but officials say it could take weeks to solve the case.