Fire marshal probes plant blaze
Facility had been closed after licence pulled by food inspection agency
The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal is investigating a massive fire that ripped through the Paletta International Corporation meat-processing plant.
The blaze broke out at 4480 Paletta Court just after 4:10 p.m. Wednesday and continued to burn for hours, eventually consuming at least a third of the facility.
Burlington firefighters spent most of Thursday at the plant near Appleby Line and the QEW as they continued to douse hot spots with aerial devices and liaise with the fire marshal’s office.
“I honestly think we’ll be here most of the rest of the day, one way or another,” Burlington fire Chief David Lazenby said midday Thursday.
Because of the size of the fire, crews
want to make sure there are no flare-ups from fallen debris, he said.
The Burlington fire department is also working with maintenance staff to assess what’s left of the refrigeration system and determine whether any action needs to be taken as there was ammonia on-site.
“Now that we’ve got the benefit of daylight, we’re using drone footage to get an assessment of what’s the scale of the damage and what can we do to manage what ammonia might be left in the system,” Lazenby said.
The Ministry of the Environment was at the site Wednesday and Thursday to assess whether any water used to fight the fire affected the environment.
“We understand that most of the ammonia was consumed during the fire,” said ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler.
Lazenby said it’s too early to determine the cause of the fire and damage caused by it, but noted it is “significant.”
Tender Choice Foods, which specializes in processing, packing and distributing meat products, operates in the Paletta International Corporation building.
Tender Choice Foods is a subsidiary of Blue Goose Pure Foods Inc., which acquired the company in October 2016, according to a press release from the company.
Tender Choice is also an indirect subsidiary of Dundee Corporation.
In a news release, Dundee Corporation said the facility is expected to remain closed while the damage is assessed.
Lazenby said employees are the most important consideration. “Our hearts go out to them and our thoughts are certainly with them.”
Firefighters from Oakville and Hamilton were asked to help the Burlington department fight the blaze.
Angelo Paletta, president of the longtime family firm, said Wednesday night the fire had left him “in shock.”
“It’s definitely not the Christmas present I was looking for,” he told The Spectator.
All the workers who were in the large building when the fire started made it out without injury. Normally, between 150 and 200 workers are in the building where turkey, chicken and pork are processed, Paletta said. “Today, they were doing some maintenance, repairs. … Thank God there wasn’t a lot of staff there (Wednesday).”
Paletta couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the operating licence of Blue Goose Pure Foods Inc. in Burlington on Nov. 10, according to a prosecution bulletin. The suspension was for failing to meet requirements relating to building maintenance under meat inspection regulations. A CFIA spokesperson confirmed this is the same location as Wednesday night’s blaze.
The facility hadn’t yet reopened at the time of the fire, said a Dundee spokesperson.
Paletta International Corporation moved to Burlington in 1964 and built the 15,000square-foot meat plant along the QEW. In 2013, they built a 90,000-square-foot freezer on Glover Road in Hamilton.
The firm has also developed residential units, buildings and expanded into film, media and entertainment.
This isn’t the first time there’s been a fire in the Paletta Court facility. A police officer was injured and dozens of contractors were sent scrambling for safety as explosions ripped through the meat-processing plant while it was under renovation in June 1994.
Another fire broke out the next month as renovations continued. In 2006, a fire also ripped through a Toronto slaughterhouse owned by the Palettas.
Burlington firefighters continued to douse hot spots Thursday morning after fire broke out at Paletta International Wednesday afternoon.
About a third of the Paletta food plant near Appleby Line and the QEW was destroyed in the fire. A dollar value is not yet known.