The incident occurred at night at a farrowing site on the farm, named Belyi Kolodets, on the border of the Mtsensk and Bolhovskogo districts.
The fire, on 30 August, affected four sections of the building and significantly damaged the ventilation, water and feeding systems. As a result, 828 sows and more than 8,500 piglets died, although no people were hurt in the blaze.
Representatives of Cherkizovo confirmed the incident, claiming that the farm contained 5,000 sows and 9,000 piglets and the exact losses were yet to be determined. However, according to the company’s preliminary estimates, losses amounted to less than 15% of the farm’s overall stock.
When lightning strikes
The fire is believed to have been caused by lightning, Elena Trifonova, a spokesperson for Cherkizovo confirmed.
“As a result of elemental forces and a severe thunderstorm on the company’s pig farm in the Orel Oblast late on 30 August, lightning struck the body of the farrowing building, prompting a local fire, which began at 9.30pm,” Trifonova’s report added.
“By midnight the fire zone was almost completely sealed and neutralised. Only a quarter of all the pigs [at the farm] were affected and the fire did not affect the workings of other buildings in the complex; all their systems continue to operate normally and the animals are also in a satisfactory condition."
Local authorities praised
Cherkizovo said that the issue on how to dispose of the dead pigs would be determined in accordance with current veterinary legislation, while some reports suggested the pigs will be used at the Orel Veterinary and Sanitary Utilization plant.
Company representatives also praised the prompt reaction of the plant’s employees and local firefighters, since their efforts meant the farm avoided more serious damage.
According to representatives from the regional Ministry of Emergency, when firefighters arrived at the facility, a roof area of 1,000sq m was burning. Most of the animals died from choking on smoke from panels cladding the farm walls.
A report from Russia’s veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor suggested that veterinary specialists also took biological material on African swine fever to study in the Orel Referential Center. At the moment, the facility continues to operate under a closed-mode cycle, with biosecurity measures being applied.
Cherkizovo also said the plant’s capacity would enable it to operate as normal, until operations at the farrowing building can be restored.