All that remains of the Family Meats Ltd.’s slaughter plant. Photo by Emily Jaycox

Ponoka meat plant hopes to begin rebuilding in January after fire

Ponoka’s Family Meats Ltd., which has been able to keep all of its 28 slaughter plant employees working after a fire destroyed the building Dec. 1, says plans are underway to rebuild.

“Hopefully, we’ll be operational again in the spring,” says general manager Jent Hoekstra.

Workers have been commuting to facilities in Edmonton and south of Red Deer. The cutting plant in Ponoka is still doing the processing.

Hoekstra says if all goes well, the business hopes to break ground on a new building at the beginning of January. The cost of the rebuild isn’t being released, but Hoekstra says it has a multimillion-dollar price tag.

Nothing of the building or equipment is salvageable, as the heat from the blaze destroyed electrical components and nothing could be restored to food-grade standards, he says.

Ponoka County Regional Fire Chief Dennis Jones says the fire department’s joint investigation with the business’s insurance investigator wrapped up Dec. 11.

They are awaiting the report from the insurance investigator before they can officially state a cause of the fire.

Investigations can take awhile when it involves a significant loss to a business, he added.

Jones did say, however, that this was the worst fire in Ponoka since the True Value Hardware blaze in May 2007.

“We haven’t seen one like this for a long time, and hopefully, we don’t get another like that for a long time.”

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