So far Family Meats Ltd. has been able to keep all of the 28 employees of the business’s slaughter plant in the Ponoka industrial plant working after a fire destroyed the building and equipment on Dec. 1 and plans are underway to rebuild.
“Hopefully we’ll be operational again in the spring,” said Jent Hoekstra, general manager, in an interview Dec. 18.
The business has kept all the workers employed, having their cattle slaughtered at three different locations in central Alberta to kept up with their previous volume, according to Hoekstra.
The workers have been commuting to the facilities — one in Edmonton and another south of Red Deer. The cutting plant in Ponoka is still doing all the processing.
Hoekstra says if all goes well the business hopes to break ground on a new building at the beginning of January. The exact cost of the rebuild isn’t being released, but Hoekstra says it has a multi-million dollar price tag.
Nothing of the building or equipment is salvageable, as the heat from the blaze fried electrical components and nothing could ever be restored to food grade standards, he says.
Ponoka County Regional Fire Chief Dennis Jones says the fire department’s joint physical investigation with the business’s insurance investigator wrapped up on Dec. 11 and they are awaiting the report from the insurance investigator before they can officially state a cause of the fire.
Investigations can take awhile when it involves a significant loss to a business, he added.
Jones did say, however, that this was the worst fire with a significant loss to a business in Ponoka since the True Value Hardware fire in May, 2007.
Firefighters worked through the night, with some experiencing symptoms due to over-exertion, which a day of rest and fluids cured, says Jones.
“We haven’t seen one like this for a long time and hopefully we don’t get another like that for a long time.”