WAYNE, W.Va. — What employees say began as an office fire ended up gutting the Ballard’s Farm sausage distribution plant, which has operated in the Wayne community since 1946.
No one was injured, but 35 employees were left to wonder about their futures as the blaze raged for hours, laying waste to the building despite the efforts of multiple area volunteer fire departments.
Third-generation owner David Ballard said there were 11 or 12 employees in the building when the fire started at 10:19 a.m.
Donetta Johnson, who has worked at the plant since she was 18, was one of the first to smell smoke in the building.
She works in the offices on the second floor, and said she stood up from her cubicle in accounts received and saw smoke coming from a nearby office.
“I saw smoke coming my way, and not once did I think it was a fire,” she said. “I know that’s strange, but I went toward it, and I realized the office was on fire.”
Johnson said she screamed to alert co-workers, and a fellow employee grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the office.
“We thought that he got it, but he didn’t,” Johnson said. “It went so quick. It was actually very terrifying.”
Line worker Dianna Peters said she didn’t know what was going on at first. She said an announcement came to evacuate the building and she walked outside with her co-workers, and didn’t see much of anything initially.
“One fire truck came, and it ran out of water,” she said. “With one truck and one hose, it got out of hand real quick.”
First on the scene from the Wayne Volunteer Fire Department was Bradley Hughes.
He said flames were shooting out of the second floor office windows and quickly spread to the center of the building…