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Chicken house fire that killed 7,000 birds won't impact SC poultry supply, experts say

Lexington County Fire Services didn't have any additional information about the fire but said the cause is still under investigation.

LEXINGTON, S.C. — A fire in Lexington County destroyed a chicken house and reportedly killed thousands of chickens. But while the impact will certainly be felt by those who own and operate the poultry farm, experts say this is unlikely to affect local supply.

Around 9 p.m. on Friday, Lexington Fire Services responded to this scene off Calks Ferry Road.

One of the chicken houses at HP Farm LLC was engulfed. Ramiro Ramirez and his sister Claudia live nearby. They said they just got home from a soccer game when they saw the flames.

"He’s saying around the time that he got home that it was mostly the fire had just kind of started that it was mostly small flames just out of nowhere the flames started getting bigger," Claudia said, translating for her brother.

Inside the house, 7,000 chickens died according to county officials. And with such a large number of poultry deaths came questions regarding the potential impact this loss could have locally and for consumers.

Bryan Smith, an area extension agent with Clemson University, said that while the impact on this farm was likely massive, it is unlikely the fire and the loss of chickens will have sway on the broader South Carolina poultry market.

“There’s enough other growers with the number of houses that are providing chickens that we won’t see that at the grocery store,” Bryan Smith said.

According to a South Carolina Department of Agriculture spokesperson, poultry is South Carolina's top agricultural product with more than $1 billion produced each year as part of the global market.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture also said it would be working to offer support to the owner of the farm.

"The loss of these birds is a tragedy for the farm. Commissioner Hugh Weathers is working on reaching out to Mr. Padgett to offer condolences and see what support we can offer," the agency spokesperson said in a statement.

In an example of the impact on a grower, Extension Agent Smith added that, on a farm with four chicken houses, losing one house is 25% of the farmer's total income. 

But he said this loss is only temporary.

“Once he gets his house back up, I’m sure his supplier will be able to fill his house back up pretty quickly.," Smith said.

Smith said he doesn't know exactly how long that could take, since it's dependent on the farmer's rebuilding process.

The owner of HP Farms did not wish to speak on camera. Lexington County Fire Services didn't have any additional information about the fire but said the cause is still under investigation.

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