No Chickens Here: While Dousing Hen House Fire, Co-op Crews Save Property

Members of Northwestern Electric Co-op and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Co-ops honored Jarrod Randall (at left with crew) for stopping a fire from spreading near several homes. (Photo By: Jonna Hensley)

Chicken one day, feathers the next, as the saying goes. But in the case of a member of an Oklahoma co-op, it was still chicken the next day, thanks to quick-thinking line crews.

Members of Northwestern Electric Cooperative in Woodward are calling Jarrod Randall, co-op line foreman, and his eight-member team heroes for dousing a chicken house fire on their property and likely preventing a larger blaze from consuming their home and others in the drought-stricken area.

The Overton families thanked co-op crews in a letter to the editor of the Woodward News. Their homes bordered the chicken house.

“We never hear much about the small preventative actions that stop major disasters from taking place,” the families wrote. “NW Oklahoma can once again be assured and proud that we live in a place which still has the mindset to ‘do something’ when we see something.”

The story unfolded when Randall and his team were repairing and replacing poles near the Overtons’ farm outside Sharon. From a quarter-mile away, Randall spotted smoke, drove over to investigate and came upon quite a scene.

A chicken house, about eight feet high and six feet long, was ablaze “and chickens were running around,” said Randall.

“Guys in another bucket were in the front yard; one was on the phone calling the fire department and another was banging on the door of a house to let [the homeowner and children] know their chicken house was on fire.”

Neither person nor fowl was injured during the 10 minutes it took for Randall and his co-op crew to put out the fire. With chickens underfoot—a lineworker had freed the birds from the burning structure—the crew attacked the blaze with extinguishers and shovels from their trucks. A water hose hookup to the house was frozen, but Randall broke the ice and got the water flowing.

On everyone’s minds, said Randall, were the bone-dry conditions caused by a prolonged drought and a forecast that day for gusty winds. Fire hazards surrounded the scene on all sides, among them a 500-gallon propane tank and a row of highly flammable cedar trees. All around were fields of 18-inch standing grasses.

“It hasn’t rained since September and thankfully the wind wasn’t blowing yet,” said Randall. “We could have had a bad deal.”

Firefighters arrived shortly after co-op crews extinguished the blaze.

“It was a blessing they stopped when they did,” said Blake Overton, adding that a heat lamp was the likely culprit. “Me and my dad wanted to give some recognition to the guys and wrote the letter to the newspaper. There’s a lot of negative news and we wanted to reiterate something positive.”

Randall and his crew downplayed the incident, saying it was all in a day’s work. But the co-op’s CEO also praised their dedication. “It’s a testament to their willingness to help members by going above and beyond,” said Tyson Littau. “Whether it’s a small fire or a storm, they will take care of it.”