Champion puts focus on employees after factory fire
By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Champion has an extra workload ahead of them after an early-morning fire Saturday took out the company’s dryer in Kitchen 2. Morinville fire fighters were called to the local pet food manufacturer around 4:30 a.m. Sept. 8 where they discovered some extremely hot metal.
“Upon arrival the fire fighters discovered the large heater dryer was overheated and the sides of the metal were glowing red due to the heat,” said Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust. “The members had to hit a fire hydrant and bring in some lines to cool down the particular oven.”
Cust said his crews opened up some of the overhead doors to allow the cool outside air to help cool down the overheated machinery. Crews were on hand for approximately two hours getting things under control, but Cust said there was no danger of the unit exploding or spreading to other parts of the factory.
“The area where this particular oven is located is in an area that was contained, and the spread of the fire itself to any adjacent equipment or structures were a minimal risk,” Cust said. “With the fire fighters on scene, they were able to cool things down as quickly as possible.”
Champion’s President and CEO, Frank Burdzy, was pleased with the fire department’s quick response Saturday morning as well as his own employees. Burdzy is currently in Las Vegas at an industry trade show where he is also looking to obtain a new dryer for the plant. In an e-mail interview with Morinville News late Wednesday afternoon, Burdzy said no one onsite was injured in the incident.
“On behalf of our entire Champion family, I want to thank our team onsite for responding to this emergency promptly and safely,” he said. “We also want to thank our fire department for responding so quickly.”
The fire has resulted in Champion having to halt operations in its Kitchen 2, a part of the plant where there new high-tech chimney was installed to help with odour mitigation at the factory. Operations will move to Kitchen 1 while the new dryer is stalled, allowing Kitchen 2 to resume manufacturing operations.
Burdzy explained he wants to make sure the factory and its employees keep working. “We don’t want to lose anyone on our team,” he said of keeping the company’s employees working. “We’ll need bodies to install the dryer, and we’ll rework the schedule to keep everyone going. They have families to feed.”
But keeping those workers working may come at a temporary cost in terms of odour mitigation. “Our experts advised that the odour was really an issue in Kitchen 2 and not K[itchen] 1,” he explained. “To be honest though, there may be certain periods when the duration and intensity of the odour is stronger than we want because we’re cooking some foods that should be in the kitchen with the new chimney.”
Champion is asking residents to be patient with the company until the new dryer is installed in Kitchen 2. “Our internal goal is to get the new dryer installed in 14 weeks,” he said.