It was an emotional day for brothers Bill and Rick Thompson. Their livelihood for the past 25 years was reduced to a pile of debris in just a few hours Wednesday morning.
"It hurts a whole lot to see it," Bill Thompson said.
Just before 6 a.m. Wednesday, Rick Thompson noticed a barn on their farm was on fire. By the time firefighters arrived, it was too late to save it-- 20,000 quail and 30 Berkshire pigs were lost.
"We were just embarking on a new part of the business; we were planning on supplying local restaurants with the pigs," Rick said.
"The wind just took the fire and put it from one end of the building to the other," Springfield Deputy Police Chief Scott Richardson said.
The brothers operate Cavendish Game Birds, the largest producer of jumbo quail in New England. Their special breed of the bird is 25 percent larger than commercial quail. They've supplied restaurants across the country.
"They have been to the White House," Bill said.
It took firefighters from 12 departments more than four hours to bring the blaze under control. They were able to prevent the fire from spreading to other nearby buildings, saving 25,000 quail from the same fate.
"The fact we still have flocks left to us is a huge thing. That's our future," Rick said.
Meanwhile, propane companies were also called in to help, since the fire had cut power to the farm's incubation and heating systems, leaving the animals vulnerable to the cold.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but it is believed to be accidental. Investigators say they may never know what sparked the massive blaze due to the extensive damage to the barn.
"It's usually pretty hard once the roof and walls have come in, but we'll try," Richardson said.
While investigators work to determine where and how the fire started, the brothers plan to rebuild. They hope to have a new barn up by this summer. Despite the fire, the brothers say their lifelong dream has not gone up in smoke.
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