MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark.– The Butterball plant and feed mill caught fire just before midnight Sunday, shutting down production for now.
From the outside of the plant, it looks like business as usual, but on the inside at Butterball it’s anything but.
“At a bare minimum we will not be producing feed until Wednesday,” said Butterball complex manager John Smalley.
Evidence that one little piece of equipment can bring this whole place to a grinding halt.
“Feed has to reach a temperature of about 185-degrees for it to be pelletized,” he said.
And ironically, the cooler to cool feed down post-pellet is what caught fire.
“The feed just got too hot in there,” Smalley said.
The fire started in the cooler that sits in the basement of the three story building. It cools down the some 10,000 pounds of feed that pours into it. But early Monday morning, that feed got so hot that it ignited. And with the dust from the feed going up into some very tall pipes, it was the perfect combo for fire, because the dust from it carried the flames up esentially four stories.
“You got electrical issues, you got dust type fires with this type of product. Over several years, we’ve responded to at least four incidents here,” said Mountain Home Fire Chief Ken Williams.
His firefighters are familiar with the plant, which was a good thing for last night. They spent three hours scaling ladders on the building, and in their fire truck to douse the flames.
“We do pre-plans on all the commercial buildings in town so out of that we get a drawing of the building. We note things like overhead hazards, and where electrical is located, gas shut-offs, all those types of things,” Williams said.
For Butterball manager Mr. Smalley, he’s just trying to get production transferred from here to Butterball’s two other plants so customers won’t notice a difference at the dinner table.
“We’ll get you covered one way or the other!” Smalley said.
Butterball is still assessing the financial toll.
Most of the birds and feed production will be transferred to the Butterball location in Green Forest.
Two workers were on premises at the time; no one was hurt.