(Adds details on Seaboard, comments by Oklahoma officials, U.S. senator, company representatives, other background)
By Michael Hirtzer and Renita D. Young
March 10 (Reuters) - Wildfires devastated a Smithfield Foods Inc hog farm in Laverne, Oklahoma, killing at least several thousand pigs, company and local officials said on Friday.
The exact number of swine killed in the Oklahoma fire, which began on Monday, was not immediately known. Smithfield did not say how many died in the blaze, but said no workers were harmed.
The Smithfield farm housed about 45,000 sows, according to the company’s website.
Luke Kanclerz, spokesman for the Oklahoma Forestry Services, said on Friday that several thousand hogs “were lost.”
“Such a large area was impacted by these fires, it’s taking time to collect information,” he said. “There are no accurate numbers yet.”
Kanclerz said state officials were at the Smithfield farm on Friday, collecting information on how many animals had died and other data.
“While we are deeply thankful that no employees were harmed in the fire, we lament the unnecessary loss of animals and the devastation to the surrounding community,” Smithfield spokeswoman Kathleen Kirkham said.
Smithfield is the world’s largest pork producer, raising about 16 million hogs per year. It is owned by Chinese-based WH Group Ltd.
Wildfires also killed about 1,900 hogs at two of Seaboard Foods’ farms south of Perryton, Texas, company spokesman David Eaheart said.
About 1.2 million acres burned within 24 hours on Monday in the Texas Panhandle, northwestern Oklahoma and adjacent parts of southwestern Kansas, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Patrick Marsh. Smaller fires also burned in Colorado, Nebraska, and part of the Florida Everglades, he said.
Firefighters on Friday were still working to contain the blazes that killed at least six people.
Officials with Clark County, Kansas, estimated as many as 9,000 head of cattle are dead, according to a statement from U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican.
As crews dispose of animal carcasses, Oklahoma State Veterinarian Rod Hall said the economic impact to farmers could be compounded by a psychological blow. In Gray County, Texas, a woman and two men died on Monday, after they tried to move their cattle out of the fire’s path.
“This is the way these people were making a living and they take their livestock seriously,” Hall said. (Reporting by Michael Hirtzer and Renita D. Young in Chicago; Writing by P.J. Huffstutter; Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis)