Relief egg production plant fire wasn't worse

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RICE COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) -

"It was pretty bad.  It was scary.  They were still working on it probably at midnight last night," said Paula Clark.  "We were driving around the mile section, watching it, seeing what they were doing."

KAKE News showed you the flames and smoke pouring out of the Cal-Maine, Inc, egg plant Wednesday.  Now, the aftermath and what that fire destroyed.  
That egg production plant is a huge part of the Chase community in western Rice County.

"It was pretty big.  We were all thinking, 'Oh my gosh!  It's going to spread,'" Clark said.

She works the counter at Katz Korner in Chase, where the fire was the talk of the town Thursday.

"Very much so!" she laughed.

Wednesday night, they'd all watched and worried as flames destroyed one of the plant's twelve hen houses.  After all, most folks in town are either employed at the plant or related to someone who is.

"My husband works at the truck shop and I have two sons who work at flock services," Clark said.

Assistant Rice County Fire Chief Brad Reid says, while his department doesn't handle big fires like this often, they're familiar with the facility .

"With us having a few fires in the past, we kind of have some procedures in place now," he said.

He added that they respond to a call at the plant about once a year, maybe less.  But they're usually a lot smaller than Wednesday's blaze.  They too were worried about the fire spreading.

"We were very lucky in my opinion with 30 mph winds last night," he said.

Despite pre-planning to handle fires at the plant, Reid said it was still all hands on deck to battle the blaze through the night and into the morning.

"We had about 15 guys on scene all night," he said, even though they officially had the fire under control by the 10pm newscast Wednesday night.  "They left the scene this morning about 8 o'clock."

Cal-Maine says the fire destroyed the one hen house and caused some collateral damage to hens in nearby houses from the smoke and power outages. The company adds the fire won't affect egg production or sales.  It will supplement any shortfalls from the Chase plant with eggs from its other plants.  In all, Call-Maine, Inc, has some 40 million hens laying eggs in 15 states.

At the Chase plant, the company says clean-up is already underway, soon to be followed by rebuilding.

"In fact, right now, they're having their Thanksgiving out there," Clark said.  "I guess they're going to do it in shifts because they have some of the people cleaning up."

While it's hard to see the extent of the damage from that fire out on the road, there is one very public reminder of what happened.  Anytime the wind shifts in your direction, you can smell burnt feathers.

"They've talked about the Kentucky Fried BBQ out there," Clark laughed about her customers' conversations Thursday.

Another sign of the relief  those in Chase feel, knowing Wednesday's fire didn't hurt anyone or stop work at the plant they all rely on. 

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