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Poultry operator loses chicks in fire

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

ALBANY,  GA (WALB) –  Record low temperatures may have contributed to a fire that killed more than 12,000 baby chicks in Colquitt County.

The owners of the International Poultry Breeders near Norman Park cranked up the heat to keep the baby chicks warm, and investigators believe the heaters may have sparked the fire. It's a huge financial loss for the company.

Firefighters battled not only flames but below freezing temperatures.

What used to be a house full of baby chickens is now a smoldering graveyard for the more than 12,000 newborn chicks that died Thursday morning along Perry Batts Road, just outside Norman Park.

The International Poultry Breeders' 16,000 square-foot chicken house burst into flames around midnight, forcing firefighters to work in the fierce cold.

"The building had collapsed and there was very little fire going at that point in time, because they had knocked it down," said Red Cross Volunteer Sam Stephens.

Stephens' focus was keeping the firefighters warm. "It was bitter cold and wind was blowing next to the chicken house, it was brutal."

His job was simple but valuable. "Our job was to provide some hot drinks for them so they could survive the cold weather."

Firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading to other chicken houses on the property. The company wouldn't allow us beyond this fence but told us over the phone they are ruling out arson and believe the fire may have started from a brooder lamp or heater used to keep the chicks warm.

They say the deaths of the chicks is a substantial loss to the company, and the cost to build a replacement house is around $100,000.

But they have full confidence they'll recover, despite the economic blow. International Poultry Breeders has five other chicken houses on the site.

We talked to the local Extension agency who told us the value of the poultry business in Colquitt County is around $271 million.

 

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