'This is terrible': Val-Comeau seafood plant fire major blow to community
Witnesses say production plant at Les Pêcheries de Chez Nous destroyed
Fire has destroyed part of a seafood processing plant in northeastern New Brunswick, jeopardizing hundreds of jobs.
A plume of thick black smoke could be seen coming from Les Pêcheries de Chez Nous facility in Val-Comeau, a small coastal community in the regional municipality of Tracadie.
Firefighters from all over the Acadian Peninsula were dispatched to the scene shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday. The municipality said in a statement at 6 p.m. the fire is under control and emergency crews continue to monitor the situation closely.
Officials say there have been no injuries.
Witnesses tell CBC News the facility's production plant is a total loss.
Jimmy Thibodeau, the former Tracadie fire chief, saw a tower of smoke from downtown Tracadie, nearly 10 kilometres away, and headed to the scene. He arrived to see workers fleeing the facility and running onto the street, and he said he heard explosions, likely from propane tanks.
He was one of several people to capture footage of the fire.
Realdine Robichaud, municipal councillor for Val-Comeau, said it's a major blow to the community. She said the company employs almost 300 people.
"With the virus, they were scared to go, but they had courage and they went," Robichaud said shortly after 6 p.m. from the scene, watching smoke continued to rise from the structure.
"This is terrible, just terrible."
She said Val-Comeau is a community of 800 people that relies on the fishing industry — an industry already reeling after the COVID-19 pandemic cratered the market.
Rejean Comeau, a local fisherman who sits on the wharf association, said there's a glut of product and losing a processor will only exacerbate the issue.
"The market is not there this year and it's not easy for the fishermen to sell our lobster," Comeau. "That's a big problem right now."
He said the fishing boats had to be quickly moved from the scene to keep the fire from spreading further.
"The factory is almost all on the ground," he said. "Eighty percent of the factory burned down, a complete loss, both in terms of material and jobs."
Emmaneul Moyen, a representative of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, told Radio-Canada it's devastating news. He said about 100 local fishermen sell their catch to the plant, which had been operating at full capacity.
Les Pêcheries de Chez Nous opened in 2000, and the company was purchased by Thai Union Canada. It received $250,000 from the New Brunswick government in 2017 to help fund an expansion of its operations.
With files from Radio-Canada