A major egg producer in the Cowichan Valley is cleaning up this week after a fire destroyed a barn at the company’s farm on Sunday night.
Nearly 9,000 hens were killed in the blaze at Farmer Ben’s Eggs, but fire crews were able to keep it from spreading to other structures.
The fire was first noticed around by a passerby, who happened to be a member of the Maple Bay Volunteer Fire Department, shortly after 9 p.m. By the time the first crews arrived at the scene, the barn was fully engulfed.
“Firefighters worked quickly to keep the fire from spreading to any other structures,” said Jen Woike, whose family owns and operates Farmer Ben’s. “The barn housed 8,800 layer hens and, unfortunately, we were unable to save them. As farmers we care deeply for our animals and losing them is devastating to us as a family.”
In addition to the Maple Bay fire department, crews also responded from Crofton and North Cowichan’s South End hall, while a truck from Chemainus stood by in Crofton. The RCMP were called to direct traffic, and had to block off Herd Road between Lakes and Osborne Bay roads for a period of time.
The Woikes expressed their gratitude to all the first responders who attended, as well as BC Hydro, Cycle Electric, and Mellor Mobile Mechanical, and the many friends and community members who reached out with kind words and offers to help.
“I cannot express on behalf of my family the thankfulness in the love and support we have been receiving all morning,” Woike said on Monday. We want to ensure that all of our customers and clients know that we are able to continue to provide you eggs for your business and restaurants. The best way to support us is to continue to purchase our eggs.”
Fire crews were on scene from just after 9 p.m. on Sunday until around 2 a.m. on Monday, then took nearly two hours to clean their equipment once they were back at their respective halls.
An investigation is underway by North Cowichan fire investigator Mike Dunn, who is also the station chief for Maple Bay and was on the scene in that capacity on Sunday night, but North Cowichan manager of fire and bylaw services Martin Drakeley wasn’t optimistic about finding out what caused the blaze.
“There is way too much damage,” Drakeley said. “The cause will probably remain undetermined because of the damage. That’s the nature of big fires.”