Thursday March 14, 2013

SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- More than 20,000 quails and 30 pigs perished Wednesday in an early morning fire that destroyed a 19th century barn at a Vermont game bird farm.

Springfield firefighters have not determined what caused the dawn fire at the Cavendish Game Birds farm that leveled the hulking barn and its iconic silo.

The family-owned company -- which has been in business 25 years -- is the largest producers of Coturnix quails in New England.

Bill Thompson started the business in the backyard of his Cavendish home. He and his brother, Rick, purchased the 75-acre farm in 1998 and moved their business there.

More than a dozen fire departments responded to the blaze. There were no reported injuries to firefighters or property owners.

"It’s terrible, the pigs were a brand-new thing," Bill Thompson told the Eagle Times. "There were two mothers and their babies, and then we had another set of seven, so we had 20-something. And down at the end of that barn we had a cage system full of our breeding quail, we had 6,000 quail. We pulled out 2,000 eggs a day."

The Thompsons said they have shipped their products all over the country, including to the White House.

The quails that died in the fire represent half their stock, but the Thompsons are determined to rebuild the barn and the business. With the help of insurance money, they will build a state-of-the-art facility for the quail operation, Bill Thompson said.

"We’re not down at all," he said. "We’ll be back up."