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Owner tells of 'devastation' after hundreds of piglets killed in major fire at pig farm near Strabane

By Claire Williamson

Published 13/08/2015

Pigs in a farm
Pigs in a farm

The owner of a pig farm where a major blaze killed thirty-three sows and more than 400 piglets in Co Tyrone has said he is "devastated".

It is understood thirty-five firefighters are tackling the blaze on the Melmount Road after being called to the scene at 5.40am on Thursday.

One of the owners of the site said there would be around 550 sows and 2,500 piglets.

While almost 500 animals perished in the blaze the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service managed to rescue around 16 sows and 160 piglets from one of the two units damaged during the incident.

Five other units were saved as firefighters kept the blaze from spreading.

A cause for the fire is still under investigation.

One of the three owners of SM Pigs, Hugh McReynolds told the Belfast Telegraph that it was "devastating".

He said: "On this site there would be about 550 sows. And there would be I suppose about 2,500 small pigs.

"For me, as the owner it's devastating. But for the guys who work day and daily with the pigs, farmers by their very nature are animal lovers. So for them to see a fire breaking out and animals being burnt alive, it's horrific.

"It's the last thing anybody would want. They arrived at 6am just as the fire had taken hold and the emergency services were very complimentary of the fact that they were able to evacuate the adjacent buildings to limit the damage done.

"And Strabane fire brigade were brilliant in that they got it under control and had a level of containment there within the unit."

Mr McReynolds said the impact on business will be noticed weeks down the line.

"Business continues. It's just in pig production you cycle round, we use those two buildings for a week's worth of piglets and then subsequently they are fattened up.

"So in 15 weeks time we won't have 400 odd finisher pigs there and if we aren't selling 400 odd finisher pigs we are not getting our income.

"So our cashflow will take a hit."

NIFRS station commander Kevin Lynch said: "Crews responded from Strabane to a call to a fire at Melmount road, a shed fire. When they arrived they found it was a pig farm and two of the units had already been captured in the fire.

"The crews used water and we started to fight the fire and were able to rescue several pigs from another unit and contain the fire to two units of the pig farm."

Mr Lynch added: "We have in the region of 33 sows and over 400 piglets."

A spokesman for the NIFRS said: "Six fire Appliances from Strabane , Newtownstewart and Castlederg Fire Stations including a Command Support Unit were deployed to the scene.

"Firefighters managed to rescue a large number of 16 sows and 160 piglets from one of the two units damaged during the incident. 5 other units were saved by Firefighters, as the fire was contained to 2 units.

"Tragically, it is believed that 33 sows and around 434 piglets perished during the incident.

"The incident finished at 1:19pm and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.”

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