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Hundreds of thousands of chickens die in Florida barn fire

Pasco County, Florida fire officials say a fire at three facilities owned by egg giant Cal-Maine Foods burned and up to 240,000 chickens were killed.

A large blaze overnight in Florida killed up to a quarter of a million chickens, according to local fire authorities.

Three barns containing three groups of roughly 60,000-80,000 chickens burned down in the Dade City, Florida blaze, which was reported to authorities shortly after midnight Thursday.

Shawn Whited, the Pasco County Fire and Rescue Division Chief of Operations, said fire crews were still at work excavating and unearthing hot spots in the wreckage of the two-story barns as of Thursday afternoon.

Initially, they had trouble dousing the blaze. "Lots of farms out there — not a lot of hydrants out there," Whited said.

Polk, Hernando and Sumter County fire crews assisted Pasco County Fire and Rescue by providing water tanker support for the remote location, Whited said.

Rescue was impeded by several large propane tanks that were inside the chicken barns, at least one of which exploded, according to Whited.

The chicken coops were located at 41040 Simpson Farm Lane and owned by Cal-Maine Foods, one of the largest egg suppliers in the country, whose brands include Eggland's Best.

The three chicken areas in the barns each contained roughly 80,000 juvenile chickens that were being raised to later produce eggs.

WFLA reported that since one adult egg-laying hen is worth just over $4, the blaze could have resulted in a loss of up to $1 million for the egg producer.

Max Bowman, vice president and CFO of Cal-Maine Foods, said the losses will total "well north of the number you're talking about there" because of lost facilities, equipment and future egg production of a quarter million birds.

But egg consumers need not worry: Bowman estimated that the loss is roughly 2.5 to 3 percent of Cal-Maine's pullet, or juvenile chicken, production, and predicted that no U.S. customers would notice any interruptions in the egg supply.