By Ted Waddell
GLEN WILD September 18, 2001 All hell broke loose Saturday night, moments after the last trophies had been handed out in the wake of the 73rd annual Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association Parade in Loch Sheldrake.
At 9 p.m., the call went out to the Woodridge Fire Department that one of the main buildings at Egg University (Egg U), a huge chicken and egg production facility located along Glen Wild Road, was engulfed in flames.
According to several eyewitnesses at the scene, they heard a loud boom from up to six miles away. One local resident who lives about an 1/8 of a mile from the chicken plant said that, when she heard the blast, she looked out and saw flames rising 200 feet into the air above the burning building.
While local firefighters battled the blaze, a mile and a half of hose was set up along Glen Wild Road as part of a massive tanker operation between Zuckers Pond and the fire scene.
Approximately 25 members of the Woodridge Fire Department were joined at the scene by an estimated 175 volunteer firefighters from 11 other companies as they struggled to keep the blaze from spreading throughout the complex: Bloomingburg, Fallsburg, Grahamsville, Hurleyville, Loch Sheldrake, Monticello, Mountaindale, Rock Hill, Summitville, Woodbourne and Wurtsboro.
Ellenville was on standby at the Woodridge fire station, while Forestburgh and Liberty stood by at neighboring stations.
As the fire ravaged the building containing the firms office and egg picking and shipping area, firefighters were silhouetted against an illuminated night sky as they fought the fire atop aerial apparatus from Fallsburg and Monticello.
At the height of the fire, clouds of smoke billowed hundreds of feet above the blazing structure.
EMS volunteers from the Mountaindale First Aid Squad responded to the scene, and when dispatched to a medical emergency by the Sullivan County 911 Center, were relieved at the fire scene by the Rock Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Fallsburg police officers and NYS troopers controlled traffic. No injuries were reported.
We had a strong fire break out in the main building of Egg University, said Paul Podhurst, chief of the Woodridge Volunteer Fire Department. He joined the department in 1983 and is in his second watch at the helm.
This place was fully involved when we got there, he added. It was a total loss, but we contained the fire to one building.
According to Podhurst, without aggressive fire fighting by all responding departments, the fire could have devoured the whole place.
The structures contain wind tunnels for the chickens, which served to suck flames throughout the interconnected facility.
About 250,000 chickens were housed at the plant, and firefigfhters managed to save all of them in one building to the left of the engulfed structure. In the building to the right, an estimated 125,000 birds perished.
Although the fire was declared under control Sunday morning, firefighters were called back to the scene after fire investigators located several hot spots. An excavator was called in to rip them out.
It was an unbelievable save, said Chief Podhurst. Everybody came together and did the right thing. It worked out very well.
The blaze is currently under investigation by Sullivan County Fire Determiners.