Community comes together to help clean up after blaze destroys chicken house

Published on LancasterOnline and in print (front page) June 25.

Alex Alpino, a construction worker at Elam King Builders, of Strasburg, was at James Eby’s farm early Friday morning to help rebuild after fire destroyed a large chicken house in Gap.

A poultry farmer himself, Alpino said it broke his heart to hear about the fire. “Coming out of work last evening to see (the fire), it was sad and hurtful,” Alpino said.

Alpino was one of many people who came to help; everyone from excavators to Eby’s Amish neighbors worked in solidarity as they cleared the wreckage off the slat where the egg-laying facility once stood.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Alpino said. “We’re trying to clean it up and get it back together … one day at a time.”

This was the second tragedy to strike Eby’s farm this year; an uncommon February tornado, with winds up to 125 miles per hour, struck the farm — then too the community came together to help rebuild.

Thursday morning, a fire devastated Eby’s poultry house, on 334 Millwood Road, completely destroying the egg-laying facility with at least 17,000 chickens.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, but it does not appear suspicious.

Eby said that his neighbors came over as soon as they saw the smoke; by Friday morning, most of the debris was cleared from the area.

“We’ve seen way-too familiar faces on this farm more than once now,” Eby said, noting that he was thankful for all of the help he has received so far.

“I think around the world this (community involvement) is probably abnormal,” Eby said. “My wife and I were saying that this is definitely the place you want to be in a tragedy like this.”

Eby remained hopeful about the future, despite the loss he and his family have gone through.

“We’ve gotten through once, and we will get through it again,’’ Eby said. “We have strength from God. … We don’t understand why situations like this happen, but God has a better plan for our lives, and we’re thankful nobody got hurt. These buildings can be rebuilt.”

While Eby and other community members are doing their part to clean up the wreckage, the idea of a new egg-laying facility is still being considered.

“Our initial plan is to rebuild, but there hasn’t been anything looked at in detail yet,” Eby said. “I assume we will.”

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