PA Barn Fires Kills as Many as 4,000 Hogs

Sept. 22, 2019
According to the Lynnport Community Fire Company, one barn was completely destroyed and a second was heavily involved when fire crews arrived. Each barn contained about 2,000 hogs.

Sep. 22--Thousands of hogs were killed in a fire that destroyed two barns on a Lynn Township farm Saturday morning, according to the Lynnport Community Fire Company.

Fire Chief Clark Mantz said the fire company was summoned at 5:41 a.m. to 7861 Spring House Road and arrived to find the barns ablaze. "The one barn was completely down when we got there," Mantz said Saturday afternoon. "The second was over half way down and soon it was gone, just like that." Mantz said as many as 4,000 hogs were believed to have died in the blaze.

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Fire crews were called from Lehigh, Berks and Schuylkill counties to aid the effort, which lasted about eight hours.

"There was nothing left to save," Mantz said. "We just needed to contain it and put the fire out."

Mantz said the farm is owned by Timothy Billig, who could not be reached for comment. The barns were at the end of a long driveway off the main road, making it harder for firefighters to reach them, Mantz said.

On the scene, crews were able to tap a nearby pond for water, which could be trucked to the scene. The barns' construction provided another obstacle, Mantz said.

The wooden-framed structures are topped with metal roofing that collapsed during the fire, concealing scorching sections of the barns that could easily reignite. Once the flames were extinguished, an excavator was brought in to peel back portions of the metal roofing to find hot spots, Mantz said.

No firefighters were injured, he said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Because of the large number of livestock killed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Environmental Protection are assisting in the investigation and cleanup, Mantz said.

Steve Schoeniger, owner of Rainbow Farm on Scholler Road in Lynn Township, heard the sirens blaring early Saturday morning from the Lynnport fire station.

Schoeniger's farm, which includes 15 beef cattle and about eight hogs, is modest in comparison to Billilgs. While he doesn't know the Billig family personally, Schoeniger said the number of animals on the Billig farm would make it one of the larger hog farms in the area.

"Devastating," Schoeniger said when asked what a loss of this magnitude would mean for a local farmer. "I don't know how you come back from something like this," he said.

"That's millions of dollars worth of a loss with just the livestock. You lose those buildings, too, and that's many millions of dollars."

As news of the fire spreads among area farmers, Schoeniger said there would likely be an effort to help in whatever ways they can.

"I'll tell you what," he said, "I'm going to start making some phone calls myself right away."

Morning Call reporter Sarah M. Wojcik can be reached at 610-778-2283 or [email protected].

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