Egg plant in Parmer County on fire

Freedom New Mexico

Four buildings with laying hens were destroyed by fire Thursday at the Cal-Maine egg plant near U.S. Highway 60 and Farm to Market Road 3333 in Parmer County.

The fire started about 6 p.m. (CDT) when Cal-Maine’s employees were heading home for the day, Parmer County Sheriff Randy Geries said.

No injuries were reported, but the sheriff said four firefighters were taken to various hospitals for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. The firefighters were released soon after they were treated.

Cause of the fire was not known Thursday night, but Geries said he believes it was accidental.

Geries would not estimate how many chickens were killed, but Cal-Maine officials said during construction in 2007 they expected the plant to house about 1.5 million laying hens in nine laying houses. Those chickens were expected to produce more than 1 million eggs per day.

It took firefighters more than three hours to contain the blaze, which could be seen from Clovis, more than 20 miles away.

Geries said it consumed four buildings and damaged several others. Firefighters were still at the scene around midnight Texas time and smoke could still be seen from the highway.

After gaining control of the fire, crews let the engulfed structures burn and moved debris away from free-standing buildings, the sheriff said.

No dollar figures were available Thursday night, but Geries said losses were substantial.

Geries said he’s made contact with the Texas fire marshal’s office in Austin, Texas, but doesn’t think the investigation will reveal criminal activity.
Fire departments from Bovina, Friona, Farwell, Muleshoe, Pleasant Hill, Texico, Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base responded.

Cal-Maine, headquartered in Jackson, Miss., has operations in 15 states. It is the largest producer and distributor of fresh shell eggs in the United States and sells most of its shell eggs in approximately 28 states. Its eggs are mainly marketed under Egg-Land’s Best and Farmhouse.

The company’s Web site states that Cal-Maine typically insures its buildings for their replacement value.
Cal-Maine officials at the scene declined to talk to reporters and calls to the company headquarters were not returned.

Parmer County commissioners in 2007 approved a five-year tax abatement for the company to build a plant estimated to cost $25 million to $30 million northeast of Farwell. The plant was expected to create about 50 jobs.