Fire destroys Gibbons, Alta. grain processing plant

Firefighters spent much of the day on the scene in Gibbons, Alta. where a fire tore through a grain processing plant Friday night.

Gibbons fire Chief Eric Lowe said firefighters were on site within five minutes of the fire being reported around 10 p.m.

In total, about 25 firefighters from four fire departments helped battle the blaze, which took eight hours to get under control.

The building’s thick wooden walls, which were covered in a tin outer shell, made the fire difficult to fight, he said.

Kevin Cuglietta lives just two doors down from the processing plant.

"About 10:15 p.m. I was on the couch [and] I saw a lot of light so we decided to look outside," he said. "Saw the neighbours outside – the entire building was engulfed in flames – decided to pack up my kids, grabbed my pick-up and went down the road and watched the excitement happen."

Cuglietta said strong winds were blowing embers everywhere.

"The kids were pretty frightened – the dogs were really scared – the kids were pretty scared also. Once they saw the big flames and fire trucks they didn't know what to do ... they thought the tanks would blow or something."

Residents were forced out of six homes but were allowed to return home around midnight.

The building, a Saskcan pulse trading facility, was used to process lentils and peas for both human and livestock consumption. Gibbons Mayor Doug Horner said facility shipped feed across the globe.

Horner said it would be bad news for the community if the facility is not re-built.

The building’s owner said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

“We're still learning new information from the investigators and cooperating with them to figure out what happened,” said Omer Al-Katib with Alliance Grain Traders.

“The regular shift for the week had closed down towards the end of the day on Friday, just after 5 o’clock and then the plant was secured.”

All equipment had been shut down and the building’s three employees had left for the day.

The cost of the damages is not yet known.

Gibbons is about 40 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

Derek Mellot shot this video of the fire and posted it to YouTube.

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