(OPINION) Can anyone explain why absolutely massive fires just keep erupting again and again at critical facilities all over America? The tragic destruction by fire of the headquarters of Azure Standard in Oregon shocked millions of people, and since that news broke quite a few readers have been reaching out to me about the long string of unusual blazes that we have been witnessing from coast to coast in recent months.
I decided to look into this phenomenon for myself, and I am sharing what I have discovered so far in this article. Dr. Benjamin Braddock and others had already been digging into this, and their research proved quite valuable as I began my investigation.
Some of the incidents that people have reported I was not able to independently verify, and others I felt were too minor to be put on this list. With all that being said, the following is a list of 16 major fires that have occurred at key food industry facilities in the U.S. since the start of 2022…
#1 Salinas, California
As the smoke settles near Taylor Farms, questions remain on the future of the business and the roughly 1,000 people employed at the Abbott Street facility.
There is little to nothing left of the processing facility due to fire and smoke damages caused by Wednesday night’s blaze, according to Deputy Fire Chief Sam Klemek.
“About 85% to 95% of the building is a total loss,” he said.
#2 Hermiston, Oregon
Multiple workers are hospitalized following an explosion at a food processing facility that has nearby residents on alert for possible evacuation.
The explosion occurred Tuesday evening at Shearer’s Foods in Hermiston, a city in agriculturally rich eastern Oregon. No deaths have been reported from the blast, but the extent of the damage to the plant and its future were not clear. City officials are concerned what the fire could mean for the community and local economy.
#3 Conway, New Hampshire
Neighbors banded together to support crews as they battled a fire in Conway for about 16 hours Monday night. More than 12 departments and agencies worked together to put out the fire at East Conway Beef and Pork.
#4 San Juan, Texas
On March 31, 2022, a structure fire significantly damaged a large portion of the largest fresh onion packing facilities in South Texas.
#5 Jonesboro, Arkansas
“The situation at our Jonesboro factory is under control and we are looking into the cause of the fire,” a Nestle spokesperson said. “Thankfully, no employees were injured and all are safe. We appreciate the quick response of the Jonesboro Fire Department and emergency response teams. The factory will remain closed as we assess the damage and return the factory to full operation. We plan to continue to support our employees financially during this time.”
Nestle opened the plant in 2002 and in December 2020 the company unveiled plans to invest more than $100 million to expand the frozen foods plant, including the addition of 90,000 square feet and a new production line for Hot Pockets frozen sandwiches. In addition to Hot Pockets, Nestle makes products under the Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, DiGiorno, Tombstone and Sweet Earth brands at the plant.
#6 Mauston, Wisconsin
A portion of Mauston’s Wisconsin River Meats burnt down during an overnight fire Feb. 2-3, with the cause of the fire still under investigation.
“The old portion of the plant is a total loss,” Wisconsin River Meats said in a Facebook post about the fire. “We humbly ask that you be patient and please give us some time to sort out the cause of the fire and for us to transition some of our business and invoicing to our warehouse.”
#7 Fayetteville, Illinois
Operating from what company officials referred to as the command center at Deli Star Corp.’s St. Louis Innovation Center, the Siegel family-led operations and executive team have spent the week scrambling to fulfill customers’ orders and work with local officials investigating a Jan. 11 fire that destroyed its 75,000-square-foot processing plant in Fayetteville, about 40 miles southeast of them.
#8 Belfast, Maine
Fire crews from several towns have been battling a fire at the Penobscot McCrum potato processing plant in Belfast. Crews were called to the scene at 28 Pierce Street around 3:30 a.m., according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss.
#9 Leoti, Kansas
A fire at a fertilizer company in western Kansas prompted evacuations Tuesday afternoon because hazardous materials were involved, officials said.
The Ford County Regional Hazardous Materials Team deployed to Leoti for the fire and was fighting the blaze and removing hazardous material, Wichita County Clerk Lynda Goodrich said.
#10 Claypool, Indiana
Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) said on Wednesday a fire had broken out in a bag house at its Claypool, Indiana, soybean processing and biodiesel plant on Tuesday and the affected systems had been suspended.
No employees were injured and the fire was put out by 9:15 p.m. central time on Tuesday, LDC said in a statement. LDC’s website said soybean deliveries were suspended at the plant on Wednesday. LDC says Claypool is the largest fully integrated soybean processing and biodiesel plant in the United States.
#11 Winston-Salem, Carolina
An uncontrolled fire at a fertilizer plant in North Carolina forced thousands of people to evacuate as firefighters stood back Tuesday because of the danger of a large explosion.
Authorities drove through neighborhoods and knocked on doors asking residents to leave within a one-mile radius (1.6 km) of the Winston Weaver Company fertilizer plant on the north side of Winston-Salem, where the fire started Monday night. Overnight, bright orange flames and thick plumes of smoke could be seen shooting into the sky. No injuries were reported.
#12 Sunnyside, Washington
A smoldering pile of sulfur quickly became a raging chemical fire just after 1 p.m. Monday at Nutrien Ag Solutions, 1101 Midvale Road, Sunnyside Fire Chief Ken Anderson said.
The fire destroyed one storage building on the southeast corner of the fertilizer storage facility in the Port of Sunnyside and damaged others, but adjacent Nutrien buildings and storage tanks containing hazardous chemicals were spared, Anderson said Monday evening.
#13 Lecompte, Louisiana
A fire started at the Cargill-Nutrena feed mill in Lecompte, LA in the early hours of Thursday morning and burned for 12 hours, coverage by local television news station KALB said. An explosion reportedly occurred as firefighters were working the scene.
#14 Maricopa, Arizona
It’s a long road to recovery for Maricopa Food Pantry after a fire destroyed around 50,000 lb of food. The fire happened just 15 minutes after their food bank closed on Monday morning. Smoke was still coming from the rubble 24 hours later. “It had to be 40-50 feet in the air, just pure black smoke. It engulfed the entire neighborhood,” said Maricopa Food Pantry President Mike Connelly. “The heat we could feel down at the corner.” READ MORE