STORM LAKE, Iowa (KTIV) - A fire that started just after seven o'clock on Saturday night at a Storm Lake, Iowa business burned into the night.
As crews continued to work to put out hot spots Sunday, they found substantial damage had been done to the Hillshire Brands turkey processing plant.
But they're still waiting to get inside to survey the full extent of the damage.
Authorities were called to the Hillshire Farms turkey plant in Storm Lake, Iowa. When they arrived, they found a massive fire, one that firefighters from several surrounding communities worked to get under control for more than three hours.
"A large section of the roof caved in. We had to request additional fire departments to come and assist. At the pinnacle of the fire, we had four agencies on scene," Mark Prosser, Public Safety Director for Storm Lake, IA said.
The plant, which will be closed at least until Tuesday, employs about 600 people in the town of just 13 thousand.
"Obviously, this is a small community. Everybody knows somebody that works at Hillshire, or has a family member that works at Hillshire," Justin Yarosevich, Assistant City Manager of Storm Lake, IA said.
At the time of the fire, authorities say there weren't but a handful of people inside, mostly maintenance workers, and all were evacuated safely.
Mark Prosser says there's still a lot to work to do on scene.
"Until we get these spot fires put out, and we have to move some debris from the cave-in, the actual 'origin of the fire' investigation won't start until tomorrow or the day after, and we'll be assisted by the fire marshal's office. We don't have a damage estimate yet, but the damage to the plant is substantial," Prosser said.
Officials say they advised people within a three block radius to evacuate at the time of the fire because of the smoke and odor, but most residents told KTIV they only saw the smoke, and decided to stay.
As far as the process of extinguishing what officials call 'substantial flames,' officials with the city of Storm Lake say they never could have gotten it done without the help of the surrounding communities.
"I think it's Iowa values, to be honest. Everybody's willing when there's an emergency, whether it's a tornado, a flood, or a fire such as this, everybody's willing to come together and help, and get the work done," Yarosevich said.
Officials with Hillshire Brands say the fire was significant, but it's too early to say what the future holds for the plant or the people who work there.
"It's pretty early, so we're still working with all parties to determine things like cause and the extent of damage and all of that, and as that information is completed, we'll be able to share it," Mike Cummins, Director of Corporate Communications for Hillshire Brands says.
The Iowa state fire marshal will be on the scene Monday.
Sunday, fire crews continued to put out hot spots at a fire that started at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. Authorities say the fire at the Hillshire Brands turkey processing plant caused a 50 foot by 50 foot section of the roof on the south side of the plant to collapse into the building.
When firefighters arrived they saw thick black smoke and flames pouring out of the roof of the production area. At the time only a maintenance crews was inside and everyone safely evacuated. Authorities also ordered a voluntary evacuation in a three mile radius, but residents in the homes closest to the scene told KTIV they chose to stay in their homes.
Mutual aid was also called in from Alta, Newell, and Sioux Rapids.
The plant is located in the former Sara Lee building. Fire Chief Mike Jones says the facility sustained heavy fire, smoke, and heat damage. Hillshire Farms Group H.R. Manager Tim Steffen said there were no injuries. He said the plant will stay closed until at least Tuesday. The state fire marshal is expected to start the investigation in the cause on Monday. Authorities say it could take several days.
Winds ripped dozens of trees from the ground, snapped limbs, and scattered debris. Rain flooded fairways and greens. Monday morning, golf course officials checked out the damage from the storm. More >>
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