Fire at SE Wis. food processing plant contained

1/31/2013 1:45 PM
By Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Wis. (AP) — Several hundred firefighters spent all night battling a stubborn blaze at a southeastern Wisconsin food processing plant before the fire was contained Thursday, more than a dozen hours after it began.

About 50 people who were evacuated from 10 houses and an apartment building near the Echo Lakes Foods plant in Burlington were allowed to return home Thursday morning after spending the night away.

Firefighters from more than 80 departments in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois took turns fighting the raging blaze at the 70,000-square-foot building. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is under investigation, fire officials said.

Temperatures were in the teens, causing some fire equipment to freeze up, according to the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center. Runoff water from fire hoses also froze on the ground, making for treacherous footing for firefighters.

Second-shift employees safely evacuated the egg products processing plant after the fire broke out Wednesday about 6 p.m.

The fire was restricted mainly to the production area of the plant, according to Fire Chief Richard Lodle. The warehouse area was separated by fire walls and was not burned, Lodle added. No damage estimate was immediately available.

Hazardous materials handlers were on site during the fire because of concerns of ammonia and liquid oxygen tanks igniting, but the hazardous materials were contained, Burlington Mayor Bob Miller said. State emergency officials reported a "minor release" of ammonia residue from pipes and said they were monitoring air quality.

A small number of firefighters remained on the scene Thursday afternoon to extinguish hot spots.

Echo Lakes Foods Inc. employs about 300 people at the Burlington facility, making it one of the city's largest employers. The company makes breakfast products such as precooked egg entrees, French toast and waffles.

An email sent to company officials seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Burlington is about 40 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

"This will affect the city greatly, as well as obviously Echo Lake," Miller said. "We will attempt to work with the owners of the company, with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and with the Racine County Development Corporation in an attempt to help them rebuild and reopen the plant as soon as possible."

The plant's employees will receive information from company officials in the next several days about their jobs and the plant's future, Miller said.


Has the Food and Drug Administration done enough to revise its produce safety rule?

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10/31/2014 | Last Updated: 5:15 AM