By Howard Monroe

PILESGROVE, N.J. (CBS) — Massive flames ripped through a farm in South Jersey overnight, killing nearly 300,000 chickens. The blaze broke out around 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Red Bird Egg Farm on the 100 block of Cemetery Road in Pilesgrove, Salem County.

Crews battled the four-alarm fire all night and remained on scene Tuesday morning putting out hot spots.

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No humans were injured but fire officials say nearly 300,000 chickens have died. About 200,000 of the birds died in the fire while another 80,000 died in a neighboring building that lost power which stopped the fans from blowing. With the hot weather and heat from the fire, the chickens did not survive.

Credit: CBS3

The Mannington Fire Department chief says the major issue was getting water to the scene.

“Water because there are no fire hydrants out here so we had to have all water tanked in by trucks and this thing was hot,” Mannington Fire Department Chief Lee Butcher said. “It started at that one building that way to the left and we thought we was making headway but it was so hot the metal was just melting and it just went right over to the next one cause of the heat, and they are aluminum buildings.”

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He says the fire started in one building, and eventually jumped to the second. Butcher says crews originally thought they were responding to a house fire.

“Very usual. We were surprised when we got here because it came in as a building fire, but we had no idea that it was a chicken farm,” Butcher said.


At least one building was burned to the ground.

The fire chief said he’s been at the post for 60 years and says this is the biggest fire he’s ever had to fight.

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State Police are leading the investigation into what started the fire.