A curious string of fires and plane crashes in the past month have destroyed the facilities of at least five major food processors in four different states, fueling a rising inflation and supply chain crisis that is becoming increasingly chronic.
The most recent example appears to be the destruction of the Oregon-based Azure Standard’s joint headquarters and warehouse facilities on the night of April 18.
Azure Standard Headquarters
In the text of the email warning affiliates about the harm, the company describes itself as “the largest independent food distributor in the United States.”
It notes that “basically any … liquid product,” such as honey, oil, and vinegar, will go out of stock as a result of damage.
Azure Standard also said it lost its fruit packing and carob product features in the fire, but expects limited impact as a result of the fruit harvesting season not yet in a swing.
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There appears to have been almost zero media attention to the fire, covered only in a brief rewrite of the press release by the small-town media outlet Columbia Gorge News and the Columbia Community Connection News (CCC) blog.
The CCC reported that the local county sheriff’s log records said: “the lights flickered; they heard a pop and went over to look for it and there was a fire.” By the time firefighters arrived, with only one truck and four people, there was already a hole in the roof and flames were coming out.
It took about 45 minutes for the reinforcement units to arrive.
According to the outlet, the company’s CEO David Steltzer was at the scene when the fire broke out.
Additionally, Fire Chief John Keyser Jr. was clarified saying that “Steltzer was removing paperwork from the building” when his initial crew arrived at the scene.
Keyser was further told that the building was “filled with fuel, including vegetable and nut oils made from canola, coconut and olive”, which made it difficult to handle the fire with water as foam-based products required flames.
On April 13, a major California food processing plant belonging to Taylor Farms almost completely burned down. “About 85% to 95% of the building’s total damage is about 85% to 95% of it,” USA TODAY affiliate California quoted Deputy Fire Chief Sam Klemack as saying.
The article states that the facility employs about 1,000 people.
“There are parts of the building that are different, which are still operational. As far as the main processing facility is concerned, it is considered a total loss,” Klimek said.
The fire was particularly significant as local residents fell under a shelter-in-place order as a result of exposure to 35,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia kept at the site, which, although fortunately avoided catching fire and catastrophically exploding, nonetheless. A “moderate leak” was encountered that “has been secured on-site,” Klemek said.
An update on the company’s website described the Salinas facility as its primary production facility.
Taylor Farms is a major player in the food supply chain for both Canada and the United States. According to the company’s press release, the firm was recognized as the 2022 Food Supplier of the Year by Walmart in March.
Industry outlet Western Farm Press described the facility as “manufactures bulk products such as salads and chopped salads used by restaurants and schools,” with the company being rebuilt and re-launched as of the spring of 2023. is expected to be.
Gem state processing
After a fire at Taylor Farms the same day, an airplane crashed at Idaho’s Gem State Processing Plant. A release from the local police department said the pilot did not survive, but no person was injured.
Reporting on April 18 by the Daily Mail identified the pilot as a 30-year-old woman with 11 years of flying experience, who was carrying a UPS package from Salt Lake City.
The woman’s “troubled” father attributed the accident to a 60-foot chimney on the plant’s roof, which reportedly distributes large amounts of steam.
Local officials said the woman was “flying too low while trying to land.”
The company’s website describes itself as processing 18,000 acres worth of potatoes each year.
The facility appears to have been substantially damaged in the incident.
Maricopa Food Pantry
According to CBS affiliate Arizona Family, on March 28, Maricopa Food Pantry, a local food bank in Arizona, lost 50,000 pounds of food in a fire “just 15 minutes after their food bank closed”.
Company president Mike Connelly described the fire as “40-50 feet in the air, just pure black smoke” that “engulfed the entire neighborhood.”
The article at the time stated that the cause of the fire was unknown, but Connelly said that “trailers with over a hundred gallons of diesel fuel to cool the food made it worse.”
AZCentral cited CEO Jim Schoff as saying 15,000 pounds of meat and 40,000 pounds of canned goods and “other items” were lost in the fire.
Reporting on April 20 by ABC15 said Phoenix-based St. Mary’s Food Bank had replenished three trailers lost and 50,000 pounds of food with inventory from its supplies.
On March 22, the Tri-City Herald reported that the Shearers Foods Potato Chip Plant in Hermiston, Oregon was “gone” after a boiler explosion and that subsequent fires destroyed the facility.
The outlet reported that the boiler was fueled by natural gas and that the company supplied potatoes and corn chips throughout the western United States.
Seven workers were hospitalized in the blast. The Herald said the facility is home to about 400 employees.
The webpage for a local lawyer commencing legal proceedings against the company on behalf of two of the injured staffers alleged the boiler “was an inherently dangerous defective product apparently owned by a third party.”
The firm further alleges that the boiler was utilized to power fryers for kettle chips and that it “was installed in a hallway rather than in an enclosed boiler room.”
It added that the company “manufactures Shearer, Kettle, Frito-Lay, Delicious and Vista branded snack foods, as well as for several private label brands including Walmart and Costco” and brings in estimated revenues in the range of $500 million per year.
Far from isolated incidents
There are also several additional instances of similar calamities in recent weeks.
On March 31 Texas-based Rio Fresh suffered a fire that severely damaged an onion processing facility.
Local media outlet KRGV reported the site employed 300 people and that “hundreds of thousands of warehouse space and structure was damaged from the fire.”
One staff member was quoted as stating, “If I had to guess, anywhere from 50 to 100 hundred truckloads of onions were lost in the fire, you can see them still burning in the distance.”
On March 16, a massive fire wiped out much of a Walmart fulfillment center in Plainfield Indiana, an incident so serious that the ATF was brought in to investigate.
For New Hampshire’s East Conway Beef and Pork, disaster struck on April 11 when the fire became so severe that it took 16 hours for responders to extinguish.
However, local news outlets described the company as simply a local butcher shop.
Two cows died in the accident.