Fire destroys Blackwell Dairy operation, fails to extinguish hope

By Jill Sperling
June 15, 2017 - 6:00pm

KAMLOOPS — Charred walls and piles of rubble are all that remain of a processing plant after a fire ripped through the facility at Blackwell Dairy Farm late Wednesday night.

Owner Ted Blackwell lives on the property and described hearing a blast before seeing flames lick the side of the building. 

WATCH: Full report by Jill Sperling

"It was a large, almost like a sonic boom," he said. "Then we looked out, and the flames on this side of the plant ... were going about 40 feet in the air." 

30 firefighters and seven trucks from Kamloops Fire Rescue were dispatched shortly after 11:30 p.m. 

KFR Platoon Captain Jeff Bell said crews arrived to see large flames and dark smoke billowing from the building. Small explosions, likely from gas tanks or tires, were also witnessed. 

Bell said crews were unable to safely enter the building to fight the blaze from the inside. 

"The hydro lines were going right through the middle of this thing," Bell said. "Our fear was that a line is going to fall, or you know, electricute. Also building collapse, with the fire being so intense we were worried about collapse and explosion."

Farm employees moved animals to a nearby barn as a safety precaution, and no one was injured. The building, however, was completely destroyed. 

"We're looking at a several million dollar loss here, that's for sure," Blackwell said, adding it will be the first time in around 35 years the farm will process its milk off site. 

"We'll make sure that the accounts are all - the customers are all taken care of one (way) or another," he said. "We'll have people on the phones looking after that." 

KFR Fire investigator Ray Webster hadn't narrowed down the cause of the fire by Thursday, and said more would be known in the coming days. 

"We've done a bit of a preliminary investigation," Webster said, "but we're going to do a full investigation starting on Monday with the insurance company's investigators as well. They have some more resources that they can bring in and utilize on a fire of this size." 

While Blackwell is still in shock over the devastating loss he remains confident the plant will be rebuilt.

"We'll get together once we have our insurance brokers go through everything," Blackwell said,  "get the okays to start cleaning up, then we'll have a better idea of how soon and how fast we can be back in business. 

"Hopefully it's not too long."

EXTENDED VIDEO: Firefighters battle Blackwell Dairy Blaze

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