The Cape Bald Packers fish-packing plant in Cap-Pelé, N.B., is a “total loss,” the village’s fire chief said.
“Everything is gone,” said Ronald Cormier. “We couldn’t control the fire. There was too [much] flame and too [much] black smoke.”
Cormier said the call about the fire came in around 10:30 a.m.
“When I got to the fire hall I could see the black smoke. They called back, maybe two or three minutes, that Cape Bald Packers was on fire.”
Cormier said he didn’t send any of the firefighters inside the building to fight the fire and risk their lives.
Six fire departments assisted the Cap-Pelé Fire Department to battle the blaze.
“The factory they can build again, it’s only hotspots right now.”
The village issued a warning on its Facebook page for residents to avoid all non-essential travel on Bas Cap-Pelé Road so emergency vehicles could access the site.
This is the second processing plant that the company has lost in less than a month.
The Cape Bald Packers lobster-processing plant in Richibucto Village was destroyed in early February. That location employed more than 150 people.
No employees at work
Cormier confirmed there were no employees working at the fish plant on Sunday.
The walls of the large building were being torn down with a high-hoe to allow firefighters to douse the remaining flames, Cormier said.
He estimated the fish-packing plant to be 90 metres by 90 metres. “It was a big factory.”
People on social media commented that they could see the smoke from various places near Cap-Pelé and from as far away as Prince Edward Island.
Cormier said he wasn’t surprised. “It was a big, black smoke.”
Mayor in shock
“It’s a vicious fire,” said Cap-Pelé Mayor Serge Léger, who was at the site.
“I looked behind our place and saw the smoke and it broke my heart.”
Léger said he was in shock and too upset to continue speaking. “We could lose up to 500 jobs here.
“It’s the biggest employer in Cap-Pelé. It’s a very sad moment. I hope the community will come together and they’ll rebuild.”
Léger said employees at the plant, including foreign workers, processed and packed lobster that was shipped around the world.
While the village has a population of about 2,500 people, the mayor said many of the employees were from surrounding communities.
MLA Jacques LeBlanc said he learned of the fire through text messages and immediately called Léger.
“It’s a major loss. This is a major employer and we understand the importance of the industry in Cap-Pelé. This is a major setback.”
But LeBlanc said he was optimistic the owners would rebuild, adding the provincial government was there to assist.