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Kan. beef plant reopens after Sept. fire

Posted on by SST

A beef plant in Arkansas City, Kan., resumed operations on Oct. 21, nearly a month after a fire burned part of the facility on September 25.

The fire started in the shipping and storage area and spread throughout a portion of the plant. As crews began to work on the blaze, ammonia was discovered to be leaking from the refrigeration system, Winfield Daily Courier reported. Keeping a safe distance, firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze that night. One crew member, however, exposed to the toxic chemical, was treated at a hospital.

Due to the hazard of ammonia poisoning, investigators had to wait for levels to decrease before entering. Readings from a toxic gas detector can indicate when it is safe to enter a contaminated area. Eventually, the debris was explored. Although a specific cause was not reported, the source was isolated to a conveyor belt in the fabrication area. Damage was estimated in the millions, Ark City reported.

Before rebuilding, insurers had to estimate the level of damage and structural engineers had to ensure the integrity of the damaged building.

Plant reopens
Nearly four weeks later the plant has fully resumed operations. On the evening of Oct. 20, the plant began to receive cattle. The following morning, harvest operations restarted. Beef production is planned for Wednesday.

"To be back up and running one month after the fire is remarkable and would not be possible without the hard-work and dedication of all our employees," said Dennis Buhlke, president and CEO of Creekstone Farms.

Ground beef and shipping operations were only halted for a week after the fire and, although temporarily interrupted, have also been resumed.

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