'Accidental' farm fire kills 2,000 pigs in NI

At least 2,000 pigs have died in a fire on a farm in Co Down
At least 2,000 pigs have died in a fire on a farm in Co Down

Around 2,000 pigs have been killed following an 'accidental' barn fire in Co Down, leaving the farmer 'devastated'.

The incident happened on Monday night (7 September) at farrowing house belonging to Glenmarshal Pedigree Pig, situated on Carrigenagh Road in Kilkeel.

Firefighters said they worked in 'difficult conditions' to prevent the fire spreading to adjacent buildings.

Farm owner Trevor Shields said losses were 'quite substantial' as it was 'one of the top breeding farms in Europe'.

"There's bloodlines that have just been wiped away," Mr Shields told BBC News.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said in a statement: "Four fire appliances attended the incident, along with the Animal Rescue Team, a Command Support Unit and a Water Tanker.

"It is believed that approximately 1500 – 2000 pigs have perished as result of the blaze. One male casualty suffered minor burns during the incident.

"The fire was brought under control by 11:50 pm and the cause of the fire is believed to be accidental ignition."

Assistant Group Commander Martin Healy added that the incident was a 'very difficult scene to witness'.

"We had to try to protect the other sheds as there's a lot of other pigs housed in them and thankfully we were able to stop the fire spreading to those sheds.

"We spoke with the farm owner and obviously our sympathies go out to him and all his staff on the devastating loss and he said himself he was devastated for the loss that he did suffer."

Northern Ireland's Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, speaking in the assembly yesterday, described the fire as 'an absolutely awful thing to have happened'.

"I would hope that they will be able to ensure that in terms of animal welfare and all of that there, they can give qualitative advice and support to the individual," he said.

How can I prevent fires on the farm?

Farmers are encouraged by rural insurer NFU Mutual to check their fire prevention methods and evacuation procedures:

• Ensure there are sufficient fire extinguishers for the size of buildings and that materials stored are inspected and regularly maintained

• Ensure staff and adult family members know the location of fire extinguishers and how to use them

• Reduce the risk of arson by fencing-off straw stacks and farm buildings

• Store hay and straw at least 10m from other buildings

• Put in place an evacuation plan for staff and livestock

• Store petrol, diesel and other fuels in secure areas

• Schedule regular electrical safety checks

• Invite your local fire and rescue service to visit to check water supplies and access routes

If a fire breaks out:

• Call the Fire and Rescue Service without delay

• If possible, send someone to the farm entrance to direct the Fire and Rescue Service to the fire to help save time

• Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread

• Prepare to use your farm machinery to assist the Fire and Rescue Service

• Use the What3Words app to guide emergency services to the exact location of the fire