Fire damages Cavendish potato plantParts of Cavendish Farms were damaged by a fire Monday afternoon, but no one was injured. The source of the blaze was unknown as of Monday evening, according to Jim Reuther, chief of the Jamestown Fire Department. The fire likely started in the attic, he said. Black smoke was reported around 1:30 p.m.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
Parts of Cavendish Farms were damaged by a fire Monday afternoon, but no one was injured.
The source of the blaze was unknown as of Monday evening, according to Jim Reuther, chief of the Jamestown Fire Department. The fire likely started in the attic, he said.
Black smoke was reported around 1:30 p.m.
The 100 or so Cavendish employees had evacuated by then, before firefighters arrived, Reuther said. Many of the employees left the plant by 2:15 p.m.
Forty firefighters as well as seven units fought the blaze at the potato-processing plant two miles east of Jamestown until about 6 p.m., he said.
Three crews of two firefighters apiece, as well as some Cavendish employees, planned to monitor the plant overnight. As of Monday evening, officials still reported flare-up sightings.
“By tomorrow morning, I think, hopefully, the threat will be over,” Reuther said.
As they fought the flames, firefighters worried the roof would collapse, Reuther said. The fire was in a void or attic location, making it difficult to access.
Nearly 25 feet of the side of the building — where the green letters “e” and “n” in Cavendish are painted — was removed to allow for more draft, Reuther said.
The department used a Jamestown Street Department boom truck to battle the blaze and remove the side of the building, Reuther said. The city normally uses the truck to hang signs.
The fire department’s ladder truck is in Minnesota for repairs. Jamestown also had an agreement to use Valley City’s ladder truck, should the need arise, Reuther said.
“There’s just no way that you’d be able to have a back-up truck,” he said.
Other officials assisted at the fire, too.
Nick Scherbenske, of Scherbenske & Son, was on scene to excavate if walls needed to be removed quickly, Reuther said. Excavation, however, wasn’t necessary.
North of Cavendish, about 10 residences within a 1.8 mile radius of the plant voluntarily evacuated because of an anhydrous ammonia scare. The plant uses anhydrous ammonia for refrigeration and feared it would leak, officials said. Cavendish has an emergency evacuation plan for those residences in the case of an event like Monday’s fire.
The potential leak was under control Monday afternoon, Reuther said.
Jim Michael, director of environmental health at Central Valley Health Services, was at the scene measuring wind velocity in case the ammonia leaked.
“We never had a release that we are aware of,” Reuther said.
Greg Allen, administrative manager at Cavendish Farms, said he would determine what to do about future shifts after consulting with the fire department. More information regarding if or when the plant would reopen was not available Monday evening.
The Buffalo Valley chapter of the American Red Cross also provided water, snacks and meals for the firefighters, said Beth Dewald, executive director. A stand-by shelter was also set up for the workers and residents who left their homes.
Law enforcement officials blocked roads and rerouted traffic to and from Cavendish, said Jason Falk, deputy for the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Reuther said. No damage estimates were immediately available Monday.
Sun staff writer Katie Ryan contributed to this report.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at email@example.com