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Pizza Plant Joins Trend of Food Processing Facility Fires


Smoke rises from a fire at Festive Foods in Portage County, Wisconsin | Image by FOX 11

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A massive fire at a food processing plant in Wisconsin on Monday was contained, with no injuries reported after approximately 70 firemen contended with the blaze for much of the day.

The fire at the Festive Foods plant in Belmont, Wisconsin, began at roughly 9 a.m. on June 13 and was first reported by the American Red Cross of Wisconsin on social media, with firefighters in eastern Portage County quickly dispatched to the scene.

By the time the fire had been contained, firefighters from over 20 departments and four different counties battled the blaze, reports Stevens Point Journal.

Festive Foods pizza plant, which employs approximately 150 people, primarily manufactures frozen pizzas for supermarkets across the country. In addition, the 120,000-square-foot facility produces dough products, sandwiches, and stuffed appetizers, Zero Hedge reports.

The cause of the fire was related to routine maintenance work being performed in the compressor room used for the facility’s refrigeration system.

Employees working in the room attempted to put the fire out on their own and were under the impression that it was under control. However, sparks from the fire spread to the roof and a new part of the structure, causing the blaze to get out of hand.

By the time the first firefighters had arrived, heavy black smoke was spewing from the building, preventing them from fighting the fire from the inside. Some early reports raised the prospect of chlorine or other chemical exposure from the smoke, which a Festive Foods representative dispelled, per a report from Stevens Point Journal.

Residents living less than one mile from the plant were warned by the Portage County Sheriff’s Office to keep their windows closed due to the smoke, according to ABC News.

By 4:30 p.m., some of the fire departments on the scene were able to depart, but it would be another four hours before the last crews left, Stevens Point Journal reports.

At that time, Waupaca Area Fire District Chief Jerry Deuman told ABC News that some of the structure was still smoldering, and excavators were pulling apart the debris to address it.

The scope of the fire will necessitate the construction of an entirely new building, according to Festive Foods owner Michael Holmgren. For now, the company’s social media messaging indicated that the plant is “temporarily closed.”

Exactly how long the closure will last remains uncertain. Still, the fire is the latest in a series of fires and other issues that have negatively affected the American food supply.

The Dallas Express reported in April that a string of at least 18 fires and explosions at food production facilities in North America sparked speculation about how and why they had started. The trend fueled concerns about already sky-high food prices and potential food shortages.

“Any additional disruption to the food industry and food processing industry will create a ripple effect,” David Clement said on April 23 to the Western Standard.

Clement works as the Consumer Choice Center’s North American affairs manager (CCC).

Further exacerbating fears of food scarcity, an outbreak of bird flu has devastated the chicken population in Iowa, with reports in March of more than five million birds being destroyed, Fox News reports.

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