By concern I don’t mean conspiracy, in fact many of fires have been ruled accidental. The concern is safety.
- 04/28/22 Perdue Farms Chesapeake, Va. Authorities say a soybean processing tank caught fire and burned for roughly an hour.
- 04/13/22 Taylor Farms Salinas, Calif. The Salinas Fire Department was initially concerned that a leak could cause an explosion, but later focused its efforts on limiting the public's possible exposure to the chemical. “There wasn't, in my mind, an ammonia leak,” says Taylor Farms chairman and CEO, Bruce Taylor. “So what happened was that when the fire started, as part of our emergency protocol, we pumped down the lines that carry the ammonia to the refrigeration system. And whenever you pump down the lines, there's some residual ammonia in those lines. You can't get it all out. So that's what leaked...and people smelled a little bit of that. But it was minor. The concern, of course, was the ammonia tank, which is well protected.” According to Taylor, part of the facility, like the shipping cooler and shipping docks, were spared. But the processing portion of the building is a total loss and will need to be rebuilt.
- 04/18/22 Azure Standard Headquarters, Hermiston, Ore. The fire marshal stated the fire started in a tote of rolled corn which was being temporarily stored in a cooler due to receiving an oversupply at the company’s warehouse. “There are two ways that it may have started,” according to the fire marshal. “Because of the high moisture content of the corn, it could have started smoldering on its own and self-combusted, or the tote or corn dust could have come in close contact to a nearby electrical outlet, shorted the electrical wiring and sparked the tote of corn,” she concludes.
- 03/31/22 Rio Fresh, San Juan, Texas A structure fire significantly damaged a large portion of the facility. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
- 03/24/22 McCrum Potato Plant, Belfast, Maine The fire marshal's office said the massive fire started in the area of a large fryolator machine, but due to the extensive damage, the exact cause of the fire is undetermined.
- 03/16/22 Nestle, Jonesboro, Ark. Significant damage to a new Hot Pockets production line that was added in 2021 in a $100 million investment.
02/22/22 Shearer's Foods, Hermiston, Ore. The fire at the facility began with an explosion in a boiler fueled by natural gas. Six people were reportedly injured, all of whom were treated at a hospital and released.
Though the direct cause of the explosion is yet unknown, one former Shearer’s Foods employee claims lax safety measures might have contributed to the explosion. Stephen Dean, a former safety manager at Shearer’s from early 2018 to early 2019, spoke to Erick Peterson at the Hermiston Herald. Early in his employment, he says he did some in-depth looks into the facility to identify risks and hazards and found some he deemed as “high risk” and “high consequence.” He was particularly worried about oil fires, he says While he was at the plant, Dean says there were "a bunch of mini-fires," which were the result of material building up in ovens. In policies and procedures, he says, workers were supposed to rake out the ovens when in a safe state. According to Dean, procedures changed so workers were using compressed air to clean the ovens instead.
“Practices were unsafe, not necessarily because any one person was directing them poorly, but because those practices shifted towards being unsafe," he says. Dean says once people start doing things one way, they pass on those habits to new workers and behaviors become ingrained.
- 02/03/22 Wisconsin River meats, Mauston, Wis. The cause of a fire that destroyed a large portion of facility remains under investigation.
- 01/20/22 Washington Potato Processing Plant Warden, Wash. The plant was destroyed by a fire believed to have started in a large potato dehydrating drum.
- 01/13/22 Cargill-Nutrena Plant Lecompte, La. While firefighters were in the building fighting the flames, there was an explosion. The cause of the fire and the explosion is still under investigation.
Reader, I want your input. How do you feel about the safety protocols where you work?
Those who have knowledge on safety, preventative/predictive maintenance, what is your take on these fires?
Note: I have reached out to Shearer's Foods for a response.
Editor in Chief