A chicken house was destroyed and all 12,500 broilers in the structure died in a fire Saturday.

The 38-foot-by-400-foot chicken house was on the Claude Shew Jr. farm at the end of Dellaplane Road in the Antioch section of Roaring River. The chickens were 4 weeks old, said Shew, a contract broiler producer for Wayne Farms and also a cattleman.

He said he was nearby at home getting ready to eat supper with his family about 6:30 p.m. when the automated alarm system in the chicken house notified him that there was a problem.

Shew immediately investigated, saw that the end of the house with electrical control panels was on fire and dialed 911. He said he had checked on the eight chicken houses near his home a few minutes earlier and everything was okay.

The Roaring River Fire Department, as well as the Ronda, Broadway and Knotville fire departments were simultaneously dispatched.

Roaring River Fire Chief Dale Pierce said firefighters already were spraying water on the fire with hoses attached to pumper fire trucks about 100 feet away when he arrived.

“They did a good job keeping it under control,” said Pierce, referring especially to preventing the fire from spreading to an adjacent chicken house on the uphill side. He said some of the curtains on this adjacent chicken house melted but it never caught fire.

Firefighters sprayed water on the entire length of either side of the chicken house that was on fire, said Pierce, adding that it was too dangerous to enter the structure. “Everybody knew what they needed to do.”

He said six to eight tanker fire trucks shuttled water from a fire hydrant at the end of Antioch Church Road about 1.5 miles away. “We never did run out of water,” said Pierce.

He said the fire began in the end of the chicken house where Shew first saw it, either from a problem in the structure’s electrical system or its natural gas system.

Around 30-40 firefighters responded and there were firefighters on the scene until about 9:30 p.m. Shew said he wanted to publicly thank them for what they did Saturday.

Pierce said many of the members of the Roaring River, Ronda and Broadway fire departments went straight from the Shew farm to Redding Road to assist the Buck Shoals Fire Department with a house fire. He said that fire apparently was quickly extinguished.

Pierce also noted that the Mountain View Fire Department was on standby to respond to any emergency calls in the area covered by the main Roaring River Fire Station, while the Little Brushy Mountain Fire Department was on standby for the area covered by Roaring River’s substation on Speedway Road.

Shew said the chicken house that was destroyed was built in 1968, so he was able to only partially insure it because of its age. He said it was constructed mostly of steel and the fire spread primarily through the insulation, with heat melting metal the entire length.

The chicken house was built when Camille Lovette Eller owned the farm. She was the daughter of the late Fred Lovette, co-founder and longtime president of Holly Farms. Tyson Foods Inc. acquired Holly Farms in 1989.

Shew purchased the farm after he graduated from East Wilkes High School in the late 1970s. He also raises beef cattle there along the Yadkin River.

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