Cargill Beef Packing plant destroyed by fire

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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BOONEVILLE, ARK. — On March 23, firefighters battled a large, out-of-control fire that destroyed the 150,000-square-foot Cargill Beef Packing plant in Booneville. The blaze started from sparks caused during welding in or near a freezer. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Cargill employs approximately 800 at the plant, which processes frozen ground beef patties and steaks. Company spokesman Mark Klein said the plant was closed Sunday, although approximately 20 contractors and a few other employees were in the facility at the time of the fire.

Authorities said at least one ammonia tank exploded, leaking ammonia into the air. In total, 180 residents around the plant were forced to evacuate their homes at one point as the fire continued burning. Due to the potential for serious injury due to the leaking ammonia and the possibility of further explosions, fire fighting authorities decided to let the blaze burn itself out.

"We are just getting to look at the damage, which makes speculation about the future premature," Mr. Klein said. "We are looking at inventories and orders to take care of customers. Because the plant will be down for at least a while, we will begin making arrangements to take care of our employees. While this upset the Easter Sunday plans for some people, we are glad no one was hurt."

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