Fire on Armagh pig farm was 'accidental'

Monday 28 April 2014 19.32
Investigations continue to identify exact source of the incident
Investigations continue to identify exact source of the incident

A fire that killed thousands of pigs at a farm in Northern Ireland was accidental, fire investigators said.

Investigations are continuing to identify the exact source of the incident.

Carcasses of the sows and piglets were removed from the premises near Bessbrook, Co Armagh, in a major clean-up operation throughout the day.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service initially expressed concern the fire that potentially claimed as many as 4,300 animals may have been started deliberately.

However, a spokesman for the service said it was now being treated as "accidental ignition".

The NIFRS estimated that 800 sows and 3,500 piglets perished in what it described as an "intense" blaze.

However, it is understood the owner of the property believes the death toll could be significantly lower than 4,300.

A significant number of pigs survived the fire, having been evacuated from the building as the flames took hold in the early hours.

The NIFRS said three sheds were destroyed.

The expansive premises is situated at Derrywilligan Road around 3km from the village of Bessbrook - a rural area close to the border.

Two days on from the blaze, an acrid smell is still detectable in the vicinity.

A steady flow of trucks drove in and out of the farm ferrying away the carcasses for disposal.

Firefighters were called to the site at about 5.40am on Saturday, and it took crews seven hours to bring the situation under control.

Five fire appliances were called as well as water tankers and a hydraulic platform.

Stormont Assembly member Danny Kennedy, who lives a short distance from the farm, said he was shocked.

"This is a very distressing incident," he said.

"Not only for the loss of this number of animals, but also the impact on this local business."