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Devastating fire kills 30,000 chickens at Sheffield Mills poultry farm

Wilmar Acres, a producer of broiler chickens in Sheffield Mills, has lost approximately 30,000 chickens after a weekend fire destroyed their barn. All livestock inside the building died during the fire.
Wilmar Acres, a producer of broiler chickens in Sheffield Mills, has lost approximately 30,000 chickens after a weekend fire destroyed their barn. All livestock inside the building died during the fire. - Sara Ericsson

Excavator called mid-fire to level building, help control blaze

SHEFFIELD MILLS – Despite arriving within minutes of being paged, firefighters could not douse a fire before it devastated a Sheffield Mills poultry barn and killed all livestock inside it.

Canning Volunteer Fire Department deputy chief Jeff Skaling says a structure fire was called in at 4:44 a.m. at Oct. 14 on at Wilmar Acres on Middle Dyke Road. Fire crews arrived only a few minutes after the page was received, but found the building fully engulfed upon their arrival.

“Our fire chief even lives just down the road and was on the scene within a minute of the page, but it was a heavy fire and fully involved even as he got there,” he says.

An automatic aid call went out to departments from Port Williams and Kentville, and was quickly followed by additional mutual aid calls to other departments. Trucks and firefighters from Wolfville, Waterville, Greenwich, New Minas, Halls Harbour and Berwick – including tankers and aerial trucks – arrived within the following minutes.

The barn housed approximately 30,000 broiler chickens – all around two weeks in age, according to Skaling – and was built with sheet metal used as its siding and roof. This is why the fire became so big, so quickly, says Skaling.

“Barns with metal siding are very cost-effective to build, but when they catch fire and collapse, they collapse inward, and cover the burning materials. This means the fire continues beneath it,” he says.

Skaling says much manpower was required to fight the fire – with much of it devoted to dragging hoses and refilling water tanks – and an excavator was later called in to level the building so firefighters “could extinguish the fire the best we could.”

“There was a lot of traffic on the road and bodies on the ground,” he says.

Once the building was razed and the fire contained, Wolfville’s aerial truck was loaded up and used to blast water onto the debris and nearby grain silos, where grain feed had been stored.

The fire was extinguished with minor hotspots remaining between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., and firefighters returned to their stations by 10 a.m.

The scene has since been turned over to the fire marshal. Skaling has confirmed the marshal was contacted but doesn’t know whether an investigation is yet underway.

Skaling says the fire’s cause has not been determined but does not seem suspicious. He also says any investigation will be difficult, due to the amount of destruction.

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