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Published September 02, 2009, 06:51 AM

Cavendish closed indefinitely

Cavendish Farms is closed indefinitely after a fire burned in its attic Monday, officials said. Greg Allen, the plant’s administrative manager, said only part of the plant was damaged and he wants to get it running again soon. “We plan to reopen,” he said.

By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun

Cavendish Farms is closed indefinitely after a fire burned in its attic Monday, officials said.

Greg Allen, the plant’s administrative manager, said only part of the plant was damaged and he wants to get it running again soon.

“We plan to reopen,” he said.

The fire department has not yet found the fire’s origin which started around 1 p.m. Monday in the food-processing plant located about 2 miles east of Jamestown.

Some Cavendish employees were repairing a wall Tuesday afternoon that was opened Monday to fight the fire. A group of company officials were also at the site Tuesday.

About 30 of the plant’s 215 employees returned Tuesday, but mostly working on cleaning rather than their typical duties, Allen said.

The Jamestown Fire Department turned the scene of the fire over to the company at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, said Jim Reuther, fire chief.

Allen said the fire apparently started near the fryers and mostly affected attic areas. No equipment was significantly damaged, he said.

Officials believe the fire spread to a section of Styrofoam sandwiched between two pieces of steel which hangs below the roof of the building, Reuther said.

The horizontal Styrofoam didn’t so much burn as it smoldered, Reuther said. Because it is a plastic material, the Styrofoam created toxic black smoke which made it difficult for the firefighters to find the fire, he said.

“That was the reason it took so long. We had that dark pitch of smoke in there,” he said.

The fire department could not get to the fire with the heavy smoke, he said.

So to exhaust the smoke and increase visibility, the fire department tore open part of the building’s southern wall to create a draft of air, Reuther said.

The fire department wanted to open the wall sooner Monday but had several factors to consider, Reuther said. One factor was the location of about nine tanks of the building’s fire extinguishing system’s material, he said.

The fire moved south to north until a firewall of cinder blocks stopped the blaze from spreading, Reuther said.

Most firefighters left the scene Monday around 6 p.m. Two firefighters stayed at the site in 6-hour shifts monitoring for flare ups, Reuther said. There were no flare ups or fires but a fire alarm system did go off at 1:50 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

Reuther said he believes Cavendish will not be in production for the next few days. Until the plant reopens, Allen said employees were encouraged to contact Job Services and treat the indefinite closure like a temporary layoff.

“There’s a substantial amount of damage in there,” Reuther said.

Damage figures were unknown Tuesday, Allen said.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan contributed to this story.

Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at brodgers@jamestownsun.com

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