A fire that sent large flames billowing through the roof of the west building of the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Holcomb is still active 12 hours after the emergency responders were alerted to the scene Friday night, interim Garden City Fire Chief Rick Collins said this morning at a press briefing.
The Garden City Fire Department responded to a 911 call reporting a fire at the plant at 8:35 p.m. Friday, assisted throughout the night by the Holcomb Fire Department, Finney County Sheriff’s Office, Finney County EMS, Finney County Emergency Management and the Kansas Highway Patrol, as well as Robinson Oil, Garden City USD 457 and Holcomb USD 363, Collins said Saturday morning. The fire began in the west side of the meatpacking plant, where the animals are slaughtered.
Collins said Saturday morning that the fire is still active, but contained to the “room of origin” and that no Tyson employees or firefighters have been injured. He confirmed that there had been a partial roof collapse on the west end of the building.
He said the cause of the fire is still unknown and responders were not yet sure about the extent of the damage.
“The fire is in an area right now that is a little tactical to get to … At this time, we’re unable to get to certain areas due to the roof collapse. (The fire is) still all contained in the one area of the building,” Collins said.
The plant, “a large commercial structure made of concrete,” is prone to excessive heat, Collins said, and firefighters have had to “cool as we go.”
About 1,200 employees were on duty at the time of the fire, 400 of which were working the harvest shift on the west side of the building closer to the fire. Approximately 75 employees were taken in school buses from local school districts to Holcomb Elementary School, which had been set up as s reunification point for employees, Garden City Police Department Sgt. Urteaga said in a press release. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army assisted employees at the school.
By 1 a.m., all employees had dispersed from the school, according to the release.
According to a Facebook update from the Holcomb Community Fire Department, the Red Cross and Tyson employees provided food and drinks to responders on the scene during the night, and Garden City’s Pizza Hut sent a “truck load” of pizza to the scene. Others sent donations “of all kinds,” read the update.
Urteaga said at the press briefing that firefighters and first responders appreciate the donations that have been sent throughout the night. Crews have adequate supplies and any future donations should be organized through interim Finney County Emergency Management Director Anthony Cruz, she said. He can be reached at 620-272-3747.
Tyson Fresh Meats is the largest employer in Finney County with approximately 3,500 employees, a Tyson representative told The Telegram in May. On Friday night, the plant canceled its Saturday "A" shift, the only shift scheduled for the day, Urteaga said.
The GCPD will provide another update at 1 p.m. today.
Contact Amber Friend at email@example.com.