Twenty one thousand chicks have been killed in a barn fire in rural Preston.
Four fire crews from Preston, Fulwood and Penwortham were called at 8pm on Tuesday to the building near Swillbrook Mill Cottages in Rosemary Lane, Salwick.
They spent four-and-a-half hours tackling the blaze, which was well-developed by the time officers got to the scene, down a narrow farm track.
Such was the ferocity of the fire, water had to be pumped from the adjacent Lancaster Canal.
Preston Station Manager Ian Armistead, said: “It was rapidly-spreading - there were perfect conditions for fire.
“They were challenging conditions for firefighters, and due to the asbestos in the roof, we had to decontaminate four firefighters at the scene.”
The process of decontamination involves stripping the firefighters off, and bagging and sealing the clothes up. Nobody required medical attention, as breathing apparatus was worn.
Yesterday morning,nothing was left of the barn or the five-day-old chicks, with Environmental Health officers beginning a clean-up operation for the asbestos, which exploded in the heat and was strewn up to 30m away from the scene.
Mr Armistead described the owner as “devastated” by the events.
He said: “Although we didn’t managed to save the chicks, we did manage to save an adjacent barn, so hopefully the business can still operate in some capacity.”
Stuart Tong, owner of nearby Pendle Marina, yesterday was checking boats for damage from exploding asbestos and ash.
He said: “I was in the house watching television when I heard what sounded like fireworks going off. I went to l ook and it was the asbestos on the roof exploding.
“There were flames leaping everywhere.”
The cause of the fire is to be established. Lancashire Police are not involved.