A blaze that started in the evening on Dec. 1 completely devastated the Family Meats Ltd.’s processing plant in Ponoka’s industrial park. Pictured here ladder no. 9 is used to douse the flames from above around midnight. Photos by Emily Jaycox

UPDATED: Ponoka’s Family Meats Ltd.’s slaughter plant a total loss

Fire burned through the night

A fire at the Family Meats Ltd.’s slaughter plant in Ponoka’s industrial park, located at 4207-67 St., has burned down after a fire began in the evening on Dec. 1 and was still smoldering into the early hours on Dec. 2.

The Ponoka County Regional Fire Services was called to the scene at about 8:45 p.m. and were on site until around 6:45 a.m., when trucks, hoses, and firefighters began to freeze in the cold.

Crews will be back on site Dec. 2 to continue to put out remaining hot spots and to begin investigating the cause of the blaze.

“I couldn’t put a finger on it yet,” said East District Fire Chief Dale Morrow.

“That will take quite a bit of digging around to figure out.”

Engines no. 16 and 2 were deployed, as well as ladder no. 9, which was used to douse the flames from above.

A total of 17 firefighters worked through the night to get the flames under control.

One firefighter was taken to hospital and observed overnight, due to exhaustion and perhaps some smoke inhalation, and was released in the morning, says Morrow.

There were 100 head of hogs in the back during the fire, in an area attached to the end of the building under a roof, that survived during the fire, and were transported out in the morning.

The slaughterhouse uses .22 bullets to put down the animals, and an unknown number were popping off during the fire.

The copper shells will be present when fire crews get in to look around, but the tin shell flies off when heated, making a “steady little barrage of pops,” says Morrow.

READ MORE: Garage fire in Lucas Heights caused by welding spark

Firefighters were inside the building at the start, but couldn’t reach areas inside the building. They accessed the building through the roof initially, but with the roof destabilizing they had to exit the building.

The roof came down in stages throughout the night and firefighters continued to work to control the heat.

Morrow says he believes there was no damage to surrounding properties, but there is a lot of water and ice in neighbouring yards the next morning.

Jent Hoekstra, the general manager of Family Meats, was on hand during the fire assisting the firefighters with knowledge of the layout of the building, and keeping in contact with the business owners, according to Morrow.

There were no employees present in the building when the fire broke out and no reported injuries.

Family Meats Ltd. was founded by two local families and was sold to a company in B.C. a year ago.

The 8,500 square foot slaughter plant, which opened in 2011, is now a total loss, according to Morrow.

The business also owns a meat shop in Airdrie that opened in 2016 and a secondary store front location in Ponoka located at 5710-49 St. Ponoka.

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