Fish plant burns to the ground on island in northern New Brunswick

By The Canadian Press
May 25, 2017 - 7:00am

MISCOU , N.B. — A fish plant on a small New Brunswick island has been destroyed by fire — yet another blow to a community hit by a major ice storm this winter and suspected tornadoes last week.

Workers inside the Miscou, N.B., plant noticed smoke coming from above at around 1 a.m. Thursday, and fled after smelling burning plastic and discovering plumes of smoke rolling off the roof.

RCMP Sgt. Stephane Blanchard said no one was injured, but the Miscou Fish Product plant — a local landmark with a huge Acadian flag painted on its roof — burned to the ground.

"It's completely, completely destroyed," said Johnny Stewart, the president of Miscou's local service district.

The fire comes a week after a violent thunderstorm — possibly powered by tornadoes — ripped through the area, knocking down power lines and cutting the island off from the mainland.

Officials also had to declare states of emergency last January following a powerful ice storm that downed power lines and was linked to two deaths in northeastern New Brunswick.

Local MLA Wilfred Roussel said Thursday a $6 million expansion was added on the decades-old plant last fall.

Roussel said the factory employed 100 people in the community of roughly 600. He said the loss is devastating, as the plant was the island's largest employer.

"It's the peak of the season for the crab fishing here so it happened at the worst time," said Roussel in a phone interview. "They process tens of thousands of pounds of crab a day."

The sprawling fish plant was notable for its roof: The red, white and blue stripes with a large yellow Acadian star was a landmark on the island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"We're all touched by this," Jules Hache, the mayor of neighbouring Lameque, said. "When you cross the bridge to go to Miscou, all eyes are on the roof of the plant."

Blanchard said the fire marshal and police fire investigators were on scene Thursday trying to determine the cause of the blaze, which left only smoking embers and pieces of metal and concrete.

Stewart said about 10 employees were in the building when the fire started.

"The employees all left when they started smelling burning plastic," he said.

About 90 per cent of the island's economy depends on fishing. The plant processed crab, lobster and fish.

"It was the biggest plant in Miscou," he said. "So it's a big blow to the economy."

Roussel said there was a meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon with employees and Labour Department representatives.

"I hope they're able to rebuild as soon as possible to get people working again," Hache said in French.

The Canadian Press

Thu, 25 May 2017 14:37:03 -0400

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