Competitors step up to help Atlantic Aqua Farms following fire that destroyed facility

·3 min read
Atlantic Aqua Farms, which lost its plant in Orwell Cove to fire on Saturday, markets P.E.I. mussels, oysters and clams across North America.  (Tony Davis/CBC News - image credit)
Atlantic Aqua Farms, which lost its plant in Orwell Cove to fire on Saturday, markets P.E.I. mussels, oysters and clams across North America. (Tony Davis/CBC News - image credit)

As Atlantic Aqua Farms works to get everything sorted in the wake of Saturday's blaze, some of the company's rivals are stepping up to help.

The company's CEO took to social media on Monday to thank the community for its assistance in a fire that completely destroyed one of their facilities over the weekend.

"That kind of support from your competitors only happens in P.E.I. Great Islanders and a great province providing an overwhelming outpouring of support to our people," Terry Ennis said in the post.

"Esther Dockendorf from P.E.I. Mussel King has her team packing product for us, and David Coles from Prince Edward Aqua Farms has his crew stripping mussels for us."

Outpouring of support

The chief of the Belfast fire department told CBC News his department was called just before 10 a.m. on Saturday to help fight the fire in Orwell. He said close to 40 firefighters from departments in the area responded.

In addition to thanking the firefighters, Ennis also praised the nearby neighbours who lent their tractors to help along with one man who "took off his winter coat and gave it to one of our shivering employees."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

"It's just an incredible amount of support, and it really makes things easier for us to work through this tragic event here," Ennis later told CBC News.

The company said there were 12 workers on-site when the fire broke out. All managed to exit the building while the smoke levels were low.

"It very quickly became obvious that it was going to be out of control," Ennis said. "You never think that your own facility is going to burn to the ground."

Ennis estimated the company lost up to 117 tonnes of product, worth about $250,000. He said about $100,000 worth of packaging may have also gone up in flames.

Borden factory being refitted

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. In the meantime, the company said its 50 Orwell staff will keep receiving their usual pay while the business works through its contingency plan. Some of those employees are already back at work in the head office.

Ennis said in the statement the goal is to have their second factory location in Borden "refitted and packing mussels by Wednesday."

The company will be reaching out to all impacted staff over the next few days to discuss what the next steps will be.

"We had probably 18 to 20 people helping us getting the second site up and running, helping with customer phone calls and just kind of dealing with some of the early days of working through our contingency plan," Ennis said.

"We're going to make sure everybody's looked after. No one should be laid off as a result of this tragedy."

Fisheries Minister Jamie Fox said the province has offered to help, but that it is hard to know what exactly that help will entail until the total impact of the fire is evaluated.

"We will just gauge that. We will let industry do their assessment, and conduct an investigation," he said. "If they require assistance, then of course as a province, as a government, we will move forward."

An employee assistance program is available to assist all staff with professional counselling services.

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