A fire on Jan. 4 damaged Country Prime Meats (CPM) near Lac la Hache to the extent the plant will be closed until at least early spring, leaving dozens of people out of work.
Despite a “notable and relatively effective effort” by staff to fight the blaze with hoses and fire extinguishers, CPM director of quality and food safety Julia Hendery says the damage was extensive.
“We are shut down, and we have had about 40 people laid off.”
Hendery notes the company is a family operation owned by the Springmans, and produces pork pepperoni it markets wholesale, under its own brand as well as under the labels of some third-party customers.
It will take months to rebuild and replace the large smokers and drying equipment, she adds.
“We’re looking at three months minimum. We produce a cooked product and 50 to 75 per cent is [also] a dry product, so we are unable to function or process [product].”
It’s believed the fire broke out in the mezzanine above the smoke house, but Hendery notes the cause is still under investigation.
Making a tough situation even worse, she says there isn’t any fire service near the plant, as it is located outside the nearest fire district.
Fortunately, a few employees were on site at the time, and Hendery says they promptly called Country Prime Meats’ director of operations Marcus Springman around 10 p.m., and he immediately went to the scene.
Springman and three staff members fought the blaze with hoses and fire extinguishers, which she notes kept the fire from spreading too far into the roof structure, and successfully put the blaze out.
If the fire had burned for another 10 to 20 minutes before it was actioned, Hendery says she thinks the roof would have collapsed and led to much more significant destruction.
As it was, the company lost its smoke house and sustained severe damage to its dry room, both of which are needed to process the pepperoni.
By about 3:30 a.m., the fire was extinguished enough that the employees could head to their homes, Hendery notes.
CPM’s employees are residents of a widespread area spanning from William Lake to Lone Butte, and she adds that once the cause and insurance is sorted out, they hope to
have repairs done quickly and get them all back to work.