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Destruction of Covered Bridge Potato Chips plant a 'nightmare', says employee

The Covered Bridge Potato Chips plant in the Waterville area, now part of Hartland, was destroyed by a fire Friday evening, leaving dozens of people out of work. (Facebook/Dustin Culberson - image credit)
The Covered Bridge Potato Chips plant in the Waterville area, now part of Hartland, was destroyed by a fire Friday evening, leaving dozens of people out of work. (Facebook/Dustin Culberson - image credit)

An employee of a New Brunswick potato chip plant destroyed by fire says the business was more like a family than a place of employment.

David Campbell says the destruction of Covered Bridge Potato Chips in Hartland has been a "nightmare" for him and other employees, who are now left wondering what's next for them after a fire burned the manufacturing plant to the ground last Friday.

"We're not coworkers, we're not employees, we're, we're a family," Campbell said in an interview Monday.

"It's like it's a nightmare. … One day I had a job, the next day it was, there was nothing."

CBC News has tried to contact Ryan Albright, CEO of Covered Bridge Potato Chips, but has not receive a response.

The company has not shared any statements with the public since the fire.

The fire broke out at the manufacturing plant in the Waterville area, now part of Hartland, late Friday afternoon, and by the next day, all that was left were the charred metal remains of the building and equipment.

No one was injured, but the plant employed 75 to 100 people, and benefited local truckers and farmers in western New Brunswick.

The New Brunswick fire marshal is now investigating, and a cause has not been revealed.

David Campbell said staff at Covered Bridge Potato Chips were like family to him.
David Campbell said staff at Covered Bridge Potato Chips were like family to him.

David Campbell says staff at Covered Bridge Potato Chips were like family to him. (Submitted by David Campbell)

Campbell said he and other staff received an email from the company's human resources department over the weekend, telling them to "hang on" as they figured out next steps.

Campbell said he's now at home, and is expecting to be formally laid off considering the extent of the damage at the plant.

He doesn't know what the owner's plan is but is hoping the plant gets rebuilt so he can get back to work.

"I am 58 years old and it was just that kind of environment that I seen what kind of people they were to work for, and I said this is a place that I think I'm retiring from ... and now I don't know what to do because I have nowhere to work now," Campbell said.

Finding new jobs for workers

On Monday, Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Greg Turner, in a statement said an "event" was being planned to assist workers who lost their jobs and may need income support from the federal goverment or help from counsellors at the province's employment service, WorkingNB.

"WorkingNB will also be providing free counselling services to the employees who may be struggling to cope with this sudden event."

Turner said it will take time before it's known what the next steps are for Covered Bridge, but he has asked department staff and Opportunities New Brunswick to find out from the owners how to best assist them.

"In the meantime, we have spoken with the union that represents the employees, and we are in the process of arranging support however we can."

United Food and Commercial Workers
United Food and Commercial Workers

Craig Walsh, regional director of eastern provinces for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, says his organization is ready to assist workers however it can. (CBC)

Craig Walsh, eastern director for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said staff who can't find alternate employment should be able to fall back on employment insurance.

Walsh said the union has 95 members who were employed at the company, with many still coming to grips with the fact that they're now out of their jobs.

"We're going to do everything we can right now to support the workers," Walsh said.

"And then if the owner decides to rebuild, we'll gladly be there along the way if he wants our help to help line up as much support and whatnot from any level of government that we can."