A fire that killed up to 4,300 pigs, including over 3,000 piglets, at a farm in Northern Ireland was accidental, fire investigators have said.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) had initially expressed concern that the blaze may have been started deliberately, but on Monday night a spokesman for the service said it was now being treated as “accidental ignition”.
Investigations are continuing to identify the exact source of the devastating incident at the farm on Derrywilligan Road, around two miles from the village of Bessbrook, Co Armagh.
The NIFRS has estimated that 800 sows and 3,500 piglets perished in the “intense” blaze, which took hold in the early hours of Saturday morning and destroyed three sheds.
Firefighters were called to the site at about 5.40am and it took crews seven hours to bring the situation under control.
On Monday carcasses were being removed in a major clean-up operation. A significant number of pigs survived the fire, having been evacuated from the building as the flames took hold, and it is understood the owner of the property believes the death toll could be lower than estimates suggest.
Stormont Assembly member Danny Kennedy, who lives a short distance from the farm, said he was shocked.
“This is a very distressing incident,” he said.
“Not only for the loss of this number of animals, but also the impact on this local business.”
Fellow Newry and Armagh MLA William Irwin said: “I know the farmer who operates this farm and this is certainly a terrible incident with the fire claiming a significant number of sows and piglets.
"Agriculture in general is under pressure with costs of production continuing to rise and a real price squeeze on farmers in the processing and retail end of the scale so to see this type of loss of animals and property is concerning and unfortunate for the producer concerned."
Additional reporting by Press Association