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Empty chicken house burns in Hamilton Township

November 07, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- A Thursday morning fire that destroyed an empty 280 foot-by-40 foot chicken house in Hamilton Township was apparently caused by a cutting torch being used to remove equipment from the building, Franklin Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Mark Trace said.

Capable of holding 52,000 chickens, the building at the Sleepy Hollow Farm at 3115 Keefer Road had not been used since 2003, said Clyde Lehman, who built it in 1964. He said his son, Harry, had been using the torch to cut up equipment and then left the building.

"About 20 minutes later, he looked back and it was burning," Trace said. The fire was called in at 10:41 a.m. and was "burning end to end" when firefighters arrived, he said.

Firefighters concentrated initially on keeping the fire from spreading to another chicken house about 30 feet away, Trace said. That building had 32,000 chickens inside, Clyde Lehman said.

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It took about 40 minutes to bring the fire under control, Trace said. A loader was later brought in to push away the collapsed roof so firefighters could get at the hot spots underneath, he said.

One firefighter had to be treated at the scene for exposure to heat, Trace said.

The fire drew engines and tankers from across Franklin County and southern Cumberland County, Trace said. The Chambersburg Fire Department and St. Thomas, New Franklin, Marion, Greencastle Rescue Hose, Newburg-Hopewell, Chambersburg's Friendship and Shippensburg's Vigilant Hose Co. responded to the blaze, along with the Mercersburg, Montgomery, Peters and Warren Fire Co., and an ambulance, medic unit and the Franklin County Emergency Air Unit.

Another chicken house burned at the farm in 1993 and a house on the farm was destroyed by fire in 2000, according to published reports.

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