New Brunswick

'Totally devastating': Fire destroys Paturel lobster plant on Deer Island

Fire ripped through the Paturel lobster plant on Deer Island on Thursday, sparing no part of the building and leaving employees in shock.

Community in shock after fire strikes company operations on island for 2nd time in 6 months

An excavator is helping remove some of the tin siding and roofing to get at all the hot spots at Paturel International. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Fire ripped through the Paturel lobster plant on Deer Island on Thursday, sparing no part of the building and leaving employees in shock.

No one was hurt, but the warehouse and packing plant on Northern Harbour Road were destroyed.

It was the second time in six months a Paturel International operation has gone up in flames.​  

RCMP said employees discovered the latest fire shortly before 2:30 a.m.

About 100 people work at the lobster plant, which wasn't in production when the fire broke out.

"It's a devastating loss to everyone, to the island and county as a whole," said Paul Richardson, who has been working at the plant for more than a year.

Many of his co-workers, who've worked at the plant longer than he has, are in shock and at a loss what to do, he said. 

A fire at a Deer Island lobster plant broke out overnight. (Roger Garbin/Facebook)

"The employment opportunities in this area, and particularly on the island are very, very few, so there's a great deal of concern in that respect." 

Richardson said many families on the island will be affected by the loss of income and spinoffs. 

Fire ripped through the Paturel lobster plant on Deer Island on Thursday, sparing no part of the building and leaving employees in shock. 0:52

"This is totally devastating for the company and the people of the area," said Rick Doucet, the minister of aquaculture and fisheries, whose constituency includes the Bay of Fundy island.

"I think they're all in shock."

The lobster plant fire broke out shortly before 2:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. The Office of the Fire Marshal is still investigating the cause of the fire. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

The fire hit the major part of Paturel's operations, he said.

"This is a bad one for sure … it's not a good situation over there right now."

The company's lobster tank house on the other side of the island burned down in September, and the cause was never determined. 

The Office of the Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the latest fire and would not comment.

Boston-based East Coast Seafood Inc., which owns Paturel, said officials were assessing the damage.

Lobster processing that was supposed to be done on Deer Island will be moved to one of the company's 12 plants across North America "to fulfil the commitments we made to our customers," said Christina Ferranti-Clift, the marketing director.

Richardson said many of the freezers inside the plant contained finished product that was ready to be shipped. 

"The loss is considerably more than just the building and the work opportunities."  

Richardson said he and other staff are hoping to hear from the company in coming days about what the future may hold. Many have questions about compensation and how long they may have to access employment insurance. 

Some employees from the Philippines have obtained permanent residency, but others have not, causing even more concern, he said.  

Fire Chief John Dolan said firefighters off the island quickly joined his Deer Island department at the scene Thursday morning.

Firefighters were still there Thursday afternoon, dumping water on the ruins of the processing and packaging plant to remove hot spots.​

Richardson said the building is destroyed.

"There's nothing standing at all that I could see, no structure at all. It was just totally flattened." 

George Firlotte, a supervisor at the plant for 11 years, said a lot is going through his mind as he wonders what he and his wife, who is also employed there, will do. 

"What's going to happen next? Are they going to rebuild?" 

Firlotte said it was a good place to work and this winter was busier than usual.

"It's just a shock." 

With files from Matthew Bingley