Houston & Peach

Pigs may be responsible for fire that destroyed Perry barn and killed 55 show animals

Pigs may have kicked over heat lamps, Perry fire chief says

Perry Fire Chief Lee Parker talks about fire that destroyed Perry FFA Ag Barn, killing 55 show pigs.
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Perry Fire Chief Lee Parker talks about fire that destroyed Perry FFA Ag Barn, killing 55 show pigs.

A fire that destroyed the Perry Future Farmers of America Ag Barn, killing 55 show pigs Saturday, may have been caused by overturned heat lamps.

“At this time, it is undetermined,” said Perry Fire Chief Lee Parker, who was on the scene Monday with Perry Fire Marshal David Stanton and state fire Investigator James Atkins.

“But we’re thinking it may have been ... electrical, or the heat lamps that were knocked over by the pigs,” Parker said.

Perry firefighters dispatched about 12:45 a.m. arrived within four minutes to find the barn engulfed in flames, Parker said.

There was nothing that firefighters could do except to put out the fire and keep it from spreading, he said. Beef cattle, housed separately near the barn, were out in a field when the fire broke out.

“It was what we call defensive fire,” Parker said. “(Firefighters) just kind of hit it from the outside and knocked the fire down.”

The fire remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, the FFA program that includes Perry High School and Perry Middle School students has received an outpouring of support.

“We have been showered with an outpouring of graciousness and kindness not only from people in the community, but from the livestock community across the nation,” said Ashley Denton, one of four advisers to the FFA program that serves 48 students ages 12 to 18.

While the students are devastated by the loss, the support will help the FFA program rise from the ashes, Denton said.

“We will triumph from this tragedy,” she said.

The help has ranged from the establishment of GoFundMe accounts to T-shirt sales. In one day, $8,000 was raised by an account established by the Georgia Junior Livestock Foundation.

“The outpouring of support from across the nation has been overwhelming,” said Angie Birdsong, chairwoman of the Career, Technical, Agricultural and Education Department, said on a GoFundMe page established by Perry High School.

“Words of appreciation will never be enough to express to those who have sent messages, positive well wishes of concern and offers of help,” Birdsong said.

Additionally, parents of Perry FFA students who keep their show pigs at their homes have offered to house replacement pigs for students whose pigs perished in the fire.

The pigs killed in the fire were among those to be shown at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show in February. The organization needs to have new pigs by Dec. 3 in order to meet show requirements.

In all, the Perry FFA had nearly 90 show pigs before the fire, Denton said. A meeting with students about the fire and moving forward is expected in the near future.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser