Neighbors pitch in after barn fire at Rochelle pig farm

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ROCHELLE (WIFR) -- We are hearing more from a local farmer who lost hundreds of his pigs in a barn fire. More than seventeen hundred are now displaced, but many survived thanks to the team effort of surrounding neighbors.

Bert Huftalin is trying to find a home for nearly two thousand of his pigs. The third generation hog farmer lost nearly 600 animals to an intense barn fire in Rochelle on Friday morning. The smoke could be seen from more than 5 miles away.

"I’ve just heard about friends of mine that have had this happen but nobody in this area has had anything like this happen,” says Huftalin, who runs the pig farm with his father. “This was a major fire, it was a big deal."

It was a big enough deal that 60 firefighters and dozens of neighbors spent most of Friday battling the flames and rounding up stray pigs.

“They just took the bull by the horns and did what needed to be done," adds Huftalin.

He says one of the biggest helping hands was his friend, Todd Wills, who used his barn to house hundreds of pigs.

“When something like this happens, friends drop everything, farmers drop everything and that's something we've always done," says Wills,

He’s has been raising livestock for more than 20 years.
Volunteers herded dozens of pigs into corrals after they were found inside the burning building.

"They don't even think about it, they just go help, even if it someone they didn.t know, it’s just what we do it’s the right thing to do and we just do it," says Huftalin.

The pigs that were rescued are now at one farm in central Illinois. Huftalin says many wouldn't be there if not for the hard work of friends, neighbors, and total strangers.

The state fire marshal is going to be on site on Monday to figure out just what sparked the fire. A preliminary investigation points to a malfunction with the heaters for one of the barns.