Blaze kills chickens at Ionia-area farm

Ionia County

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A large fire at a poultry farm south of Ionia burned for hours Tuesday night, killing perhaps tens of thousands of chickens.

It happened at Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in the area of Portland Road and M-66 in Berlin Township. A stretch of Portland Road has been shut down while multiple fire crews are on the scene.

Ionia County dispatchers say the fire sparked in a back barn around 6:15 p.m. Five hours later, it was still burning.

A Herbruck’s employee said the barn that initially caught fire is under renovations, so there weren’t any chickens inside. However, he said, two connected buildings do house tens of thousands of chickens.

In a statement Tuesday night, Herbruck’s said all of the birds in at least one building were killed. The monetary value of the loss is not yet known.

Amid rush-hour traffic on nearby I-96, huge flames were seen leaping from a barn and a large pillar of gray smoke rose from the blaze.

“You could see it coming down the road,” witness John Vickers said. “Looks pretty bad.”

Vickers, who was headed to Grand Rapids, pulled off the road to join other onlookers.

“When you see a big cloud of smoke like that, of course, everybody wants to know what’s going on,” another witness, Amber Shattuck, said. “Seen the smoke and flames so we decided to come this way and of course it’s Herbruck’s.”

She said she has friends who work at the farm.

“There’s more to their operation than just what you can see here. There’s two other buildings, maybe three, so if they can keep that center building from burning everything up, that’d be great,” Vickers said.

Miles away in Kent County, authorities said they were getting 911 calls about the smell of a fire. They said a wind pattern is carrying the smell farther than normal. The smoke could be smelled as far away as Jenison.

>>App users: Photos from the fire

This isn’t the fire time Herbruck’s has suffered a large fire. In February 2018, seven fire departments were called in to battle a blaze that started in an egg storage cooler. In 2005, a barn burned to the ground, killing a quarter of a million hens. The financial loss was about $5 million.

The cause of Tuesday’s fire is not yet known. No people were injured.

—24 Hour News 8’s Marvis Herring contributed to this report.

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