About 4,200 pigs died Monday in central Alta. when the barn they were in caught fire and burned to the ground.

The fire started around 6:30 a.m. on a Hutterite colony near Bentley.

Fire departments from Bentley, Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds, Lacombe and Eckville responded to the fire, which they had under control by 1 p.m. 

David Hofer, one of managers of the colony, was audibly emotional when he was reached on the phone by CBC News. 

“It’s really tough to take," he said.  "For 18 years, working in this barn. It’s a tough one.”

Bentley District Fire Chief Todd Gustafson said there was no way crews could have saved the nearly 743-square metre structure.

“Unfortunately when you’ve got a tin building like that – both sides as well as the roof – it’s a great way to keep the elements out, but unfortunately it’s also is a great way of keeping the heat inside the building.”

Gustafson said firefighters focused their efforts on preventing the fire from spreading to a nearby barn to the south that housed between 3,500 and 4,000 pigs.

The barn that burned had been housing mainly mother and baby pigs. Hofer said people from four or five other colonies helped chase and load the surviving pigs. 

"Without them, it wouldn't be possible," he said. 

A spokesperson with Alberta Pork said the organization is now working with the colony to transfer the surviving pigs. Hofer said pigs have been moved to a nearby colony and to a barn belonging to a friend. 

Fire investigators are still on the scene, but Gustafson said there is no indication the fire was caused by arson.

The total damage is estimated to be around $5 million.