• The fire broke out a Florida farm owned by Mississippi-based Cal-Maine Foods
  • The fire spread to three barns, each containing up to 80,000 chickens
  • Firefighters faced difficulties in battling the blazes after the explosion of propane tanks at the site

A raging fire that tore through an egg farm owned in Florida by one of the nation’s largest egg producers killed as many as 240,000 chickens.

The fire broke out at the Cal-Maine Foods farm in Dade City, located about 40 miles north of Tampa at around 1 a.m. (ET). The Pasco County fire department said three barns, each containing up to 80,000 chickens, erupted in flames, the Associated Press reported.

Cal-Mine foods, a renowned egg-producing company based out of Mississippi, runs brands like Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’ Lakes, its website says. The company reportedly has 50 million chickens nationally and sells over a billion eggs annually, which constitutes 20% of the nation’s total production.

Footage captured by 10 Tampa Bay shows that the barns were left completely gutted after the fire swept through them.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the fire grew far intense after the explosion of propane tanks at the site.

Fox News-affiliated WTVT-TV reported that the rural location and the absence of a fire hydrant nearby posed challenges for firefighters, forcing them to deploy tanker trucks to battle the blazes. "There aren’t any hydrants out here, so we had to bring in tanker trucks. We had assistance from Polk County Fire Rescue, Hernando County Fire Rescue, Sumter County Fire Rescue, along with Pasco County Fire Rescue to fight the fire since about 1:00 this morning," Pasco Fire Division Chief Shawn Whited told the station.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Max Bowman, chief financial officer and vice president of Cal-Maine, told the Tampa Bay Times that the Dade City farm only had pullets, which are young birds that haven’t yet started laying eggs. Bowman added that nearly two to three percent of the company’s pullets were burned to death in the barn fire on Thursday. However, Bowman said the loss wasn’t significantly detrimental to the company’s overall production. "We’re fully insured," Bowman said, which means the losses will be completely covered.

Chickens for sale being held in cages. Reuters