Huge fire at Duplin Co. chicken plant ruled accident, employees to get pay

TEACHEY, N.C. (WNCT) – A fire at the House of Raeford chicken plant in Duplin County Saturday night has left more than 600 people out of work.

Duplin County officials say the fire was an accident and was the result of an electrical short in an upstairs office that caught a desk on fire. The fire then spread throughout the building.

Cindy Whetsell, who has worked at the plant for a month, said she felt sick when she learned what happened.

“A lot of (the employees), that’s their only income,” said Whetsell.

Many emergency workers spent Monday morning fighting off hot spots throughout the building.

House of Raeford communications manager Dave Witter said they are unsure what the fire will cost the company.

“I don’t expect it will be a major impact on the company as long as we can continue to grow the birds and process them at some location,” Witter said.

Witter said families like the Whetsells are the company’s biggest concern.

“We are more than just bricks and water,” said Witter. “It’s our employees that make the difference.”

House of Raeford started making calls to all 675 employees Monday.

Individuals were reassigned and will still be paid while the plant is closed.

“When you got a job and you really like that job (and) then something like this happens, you’re going to feel sick,” said Whetsell.

Employees hope they can return to work soon, but fire investigators said there is very little that can be salvaged and the building must be rebuilt.

Emergency crews responded to the plant on 253 Butterball Rd. late around 11:15. On arrival, first responders found heavy fire and smoke coming from the building.

Fire crews from Duplin, Pender, Sampson, New Hanover, Jones, and Onslow County all responded to assist with fire operation and water shuttle. Duplin County EMS was available to transport as needed. In addition, Wallace Police Department, Duplin County Sheriffs Office, NC Highway Patrol, NC State Bureau Investigations, NC Emergency Management, NC Department of Transportation, American Red Cross and Duplin County Emergency management all responded. The Hazmat regional response team out of Wilmington responded and monitored the air and found no threat to surrounding areas.

Three emergency service workers were injured but were all released.





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