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'It was no hope': Firefighters forced to watch as 10,000 pigs burned in Sask. barn fire

Located just four miles from Kristy Karpyk’s family acreage lies a pile of rubble, where the Kopje Finishing Unit stood, along with 10,000 dead hogs.

On Feb. 15, residents in Sturgis — just under an hour north of Yorkton — heard emergency alarms ring throughout the prairie town.

Fire crews first responded to a report of a blaze at the Olymel hog operation roughly 10 kilometres northeast of the community at roughly 11:30 am.

Brad Secundiak, fire chief of the Sturgis & District Fire Co-Operative, said when crews responded the smoke was too thick to get access to the barns. It took around 30 minutes until crews were able to access the scene.

He said the smell was “that of a normal structure fire.”

In the end, Secundiak said his crews had to let the facility burn.

“We decided it was no hope and just to let it burn itself out,” he said.

“For sure, it [was hard to watch it burn]. They’re animals, it’s no different than a human being. You want to try and save a life no matter what type of life it is. It was difficult, but to risk human life over that was a choice I had to make.”

Secundiak said the point of origin may have been found, but a cause may not be, due to the extent of the damages caused by the fire.

The finishing unit has now been reduced to rubble, as the blaze caused a total loss for the company.

Karpyk remembers when it was originally built in the late 90s, with memories lasting decades, right up to the point of watching the facility burn to the ground Sunday afternoon.

“It’s devastating,” she told CTV News. “It was shocking. My first thought was the animals … I couldn’t imagine all the animals that perished in the fire.”

Karpyk guesses the losses on the company could range from $4 to $8 million, with the hogs and the facility itself in mind.

Olymel said it would not disclose its losses to CTV News when asked in an interview on Wednesday.

Casey Smit, Vice President of Swine Protection for Olymel said its staff originally called in the fire.

“The entire facility was lost to the fire. We don’t know at this point what the cause of the fire [was], that’s under investigation as we speak,” Smit said.

“Any plans to build right now are premature … we just need to go through the process of the investigation, and deal with insurance. When the time comes, we’ll decide what to do then.”

Smit said the animals were varying in ages.

Staff who worked at the facility are going to be relocated to other positions within the company, Smit added.

“We have enough farms nearby that we’re able to move all our staff to positions that were either vacant or we’ll move them there until we determine what to do, moving forward,” he said.

Karpyk said the facility was depended on by local producers, and there is an impact to the local economy.

“It created a whole lot of jobs for the community. The farmers depend on it to haul grain, and also they use the fertilizer from the animal waste that comes out,” she explained.

Sturgis Mayor Don Olson said he was in church when the alarms rang throughout the community.

“I drove out to have a look at the site but we couldn’t see anything because of the smoke … it’s totally gone,” he said.

Olson said the smell didn’t waft to town, but the smell was described as “burnt bacon,” by some at the fire site Wednesday.

On Monday, Olymel officials said no one was injured in the blaze.

According to its website, Olymel has 15,000 employees, 35 production facilities and distribution centres with a capacity of 185,000 hogs per week. Top Stories

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