Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

March 18, 2013

Weekend fire damages Cargill plant

OTTUMWA — A fire consumed one department at Cargill Meat Solutions Saturday afternoon.

Fire Chief Tony Miller said it took around 20 firefighters approximately three hours to put out the flames in Cargill's rendering department. The fire was reported at around 1 p.m. Saturday.

No one was injured in the fire.

"Someone was doing some welding and maintenance on a new tank they were installing, it got ignited and caused the fire, creating a tremendous amount of black smoke," Miller said. "There was a lot of grease built up, which is very flammable."

Firefighters put a blanket of foam and water on the grease fire to extinguish it.

"Anytime you have a grease fire like that ... we combine foam and water and put a blanket on the grease and fire to keep the fumes down," Miller said.

The plant was evacuated immediately, Miller said, thanks to quick thinking by Cargill employees.

"When I was coming down Iowa Avenue, I see a tremendous amount of black smoke, which tells you we've got a pretty serious situation," he said.

Miller said there was an estimated $250,000 of damage done to the department.

"But it could've been a lot worse," he said.

Cargill Meat Solutions plant manager Randy Zorn said "everything is OK."

The rendering department is where the plant cooks its inedible products, Zorn said, and the fire was isolated to that department.

"911 was called and the fire department was here johnny-on-the-spot and did a fantastic job of taking care of things," Zorn said.

Zorn said he does not "anticipate any delays" for people coming to work.

"This will have no effect on production," Miller said.

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