Chickens die in broiler shed fire

About 20,000 chickens were killed yesterday after their Norfolk broiler house was razed to the ground.

About 20,000 chickens were killed yesterday after their Norfolk broiler house was razed to the ground.

The main A149 road was blocked all afternoon as 60 firefighters battled to put out the blaze in a PD Hook chicken shed at Ormesby St Michael, near Yarmouth.

Most of the shed was destroyed in the blaze, with the burnt remains of thousands of chickens littering the floor.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing a series of loud bangs at midday and saw flames shooting out of the shed's asbestos-sheet roof, close to the main road and homes.

Peter Oakley, who lives opposite

the chicken shed on Main Road, said: "It was like a firework went off in the sky with a series of loud popping noises.

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"There were lots of flames and smoke. I knew there were big gas canisters in there and I was scared that they would explode next."

Nine fire engines in total attended, from Martham, Yarmouth, Loddon, Acle, Wroxham, Hethersett and Lowestoft.

About 30m of the 135m by 12m shed wooden shed was saved by firefighters, but it was unclear last night how many of the 24,000 broiler chickens housed in it had been saved.

Watch manager Alan Jaye said: "The fire spread through the shed very quickly; when we arrived half of it was burning intensively.

"We believe it was started by an electrical fault, which spread quickly through a void above panels in the roof.

"We can't estimate the number of chickens dead - we know there were 24,000 in the shed but we don't know how many we saved."

Mr Jaye said that the blaze was so intensive that on arrival officers decided not to go into the shed but to fight the fire defensively, spraying water from outside.

"It was a difficult fire because of access and lack of water," added Mr Jaye.

"We did what we needed to do to stop the fire spreading and in that respect it was a successful operation."

Kevin Gaffney, area operations manager for PD Hook, said last night: "We're still assessing the situation; we don't have figures yet for how many chickens perished and how many were saved.

"Those that did survive were moved to the other shed and are not showing any signs of stress or illness caused by the fire."

Andrew Lyle, fire service area manager, said: "All the firefighters are working very hard in very hot conditions. I'm very pleased that many of them are retained firefighters who have been released by their employers to come here.

"This is an extremely busy period

for us and many of the crews have been fighting a series of grass fires over the last few days and weeks. Everyone is working very hard at the moment."

Most fire crews had left the site

by about 4pm, though others were

left damping down into the early evening.