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Minnesota city evacuated due to poultry plant fire

ST. CHARLES, Minn. -- Authorities ordered an evacuation of this southeastern Minnesota town Friday after a large fire at a poultry processing plant threatened two anhydrous am-monia tanks.

ST. CHARLES, Minn. -- Authorities ordered an evacuation of this southeastern Minnesota town Friday after a large fire at a poultry processing plant threatened two anhydrous am-monia tanks.

Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said the city of St. Charles was being evacuated Friday afternoon because of the fire at North Star Foods. He said there would be no public access to the city of about 3,600.

A hazardous materials team from Rochester had been summoned Friday afternoon, even as smoke continued to pour from the sprawling building as firefighters from surrounding cities converged to help fight the blaze.

Smoke from the fire could be seen 10 miles away. There were no reports of serious injuries or deaths connected to the blaze.

Evacuation centers were being established at Lewiston and Eyota high schools. Buses were standing by.

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North Star Foods plant manager Mark Eads said the fire started late Friday morning above one of the ovens in where chickens are cooked. "Within two to three minutes, there was smoke coming out of the room pretty heavy," Eads said.

Carolyn Nicklay, who works in human resources for North Star Foods, said she called 911 and firefighters quickly arrived. "Everybody's out. Everybody's OK. That's all that matters," she said.

North Star Foods is the second-largest employer in the city with about 150 workers.

Business people in town were already concerned about what happens next. Alissa Spitzer, manager of the Good Sport Bar and Grill downtown, served drinks and noted, "A lot of peo-ple work there."

Amber Kelser, one of Spitzer's customers, agreed. "They might all lose their jobs," Kesler said. "And the way the economy is going, you don't want to lose your job."

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