At right, Misshapen metal and general collapse show destruction by fire as visited on this Buchanan Livestock poultry house the night of Dec. 16. One large chicken house, part of Buchanan Livestock Company's multi-house operation beside State Highway 108 near Sharp Mountain Creek, burned almost completely the evening of Thursday, Dec. 16.
Fire broke out around 8 p.m., Tyson chicken grower Roland Buchanan said, telling the story of the house he lost. An electrical problem is believed to have caused the fire, he said. Flames apparently started on the end of the house nearest Highway 108.
"It was near the front in the electrical control room," Buchanan said. From such a control room, a computer monitors and activates multiple systems needed to operate a modern poultry house. Many wires encased in conduit connect the control room brain center to functioning machinery throughout the house.
It is believed something went wrong inside the control room that sparked the initial fire, Buchanan said. And once flames got a start there, the automatic ventilator in the house quickly spread fire throughout, he surmised.
"That's really all we can determine," he said. "We had heaters in there, but I wouldn't have thought that would be an issue."
Full-time Pickens County firefighters responded to battle the fire as did the volunteer fire company from Tate and Hinton volunteers led by Jerry Edwards, Buchanan said. But their work could not save the structure. Fire consumed most of the poultry house in about two hours, Buchanan said.
Some wall sections remained standing a week after the fire, and also a roofed section toward the back of the house. The rest of the structure lay fallen in a tangle of heat-twisted sheet metal.
"We had 23,000 chickens in there," Buchanan said. "They were four weeks old." The birds are Tyson's loss, he said, while Buchanan Livestock bears the loss of the house. The house and its equipment were insured, Buchanan said.
By Thursday, Dec. 23, workers had finished removing all of the chickens killed in the fire, he said, and an insurance adjustor had looked through the destroyed chicken house to assess damages.
"I think they'll condemn the whole house," Buchanan said. Then the whole structure would be razed to the ground, making room for a new house to rise in its place.
"Those things happen," Buchanan concluded. About five years ago, his company lost another poultry house to fire, he said. At the time, electrical wiring inside his chicken houses ran overhead unshielded by conduit, he said. Since that fire, electrical upgrades, including the use of conduit to protect wiring, have improved fire safety, avoiding another such fire loss until now, Buchanan indicated.