$3 million of cheese saved after Ontario fire

Officials at a cheese factory in eastern Ontario say about $3 million worth of aged cheese has been salvaged despite a fire that destroyed most of the factory.

Fireproof walls in small warehouse saves cheese; to be inspected by CFIA

Cheese saved in St. Albert fire

10 years ago
Duration 2:31
Most of $3 million worth of cheese at the factory in St. Albert, Ont., will be salvaged after a fire.

A warehouse and $3 million worth of cheese inside have been salvaged despite a massive fire at the fromagerie in St. Albert, Ont., more than a week ago.

The fire on Feb. 3 destroyed much of the cheese factory, which is about a 45-minute drive southeast of Ottawa. The scene of the fire remains a mass of scorched cement and steel with icicles covering the burnt wreckage.

But amidst the aftermath, a warehouse with fireproof walls sits with boxes and boxes of cheese that show few signs of damage.

Project manager, Réjean Ouimet, said the walls were built a decade ago as part of the warehouse addition. He said he was opposed to the added expense at the time.

The former St. Albert Cheese Co-op was left to a pile of rubble after a fire destroyed the factory on Feb. 3. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

"I didn't believe in that in 2002 when we make that firewall, but now I believe in it," Ouimet said with a laugh and sigh of relief.

The warehouse where the cheese was saved is usually refrigerated but the fire cut off the electricity. Thankfully, according to Ouimet, the cold temperature outside allowed the warehouse to remain at a temperature near the freezing mark.

Most of the aged cheese will be saved and sold, he added, but only after it is inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Ouimet admitted some of the cheese could be unsafe to eat.

Most residents use tap water again

Also on Monday, most residents of St. Albert were allowed to use their tap water again after almost a week-long water ban due to the fire.

Health officials had been concerned about possible chemical contamination from ammonia and other products that might have seeped into the well-water supply.

Only a few dozen homes were told not to drink water, but they could use it for other household activities. Officials were still delivering bottled water to those homes.

The St. Albert fromagerie could take more than a year to build after officials estimated a nine-month time span for redevelopment.

The company has resumed the production of cheese curds at several fromageries in Quebec with its original recipe and master cheese makers on hand.