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Wayne County sausage plant fire still smoldering

Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe The Ballard's plant in Wayne still smolders on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, after it was destroyed by fire on Monday.
Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe
The Ballard’s plant in Wayne still smolders on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, after it was destroyed by fire on Monday.

WAYNE, W.Va. — Three days after the Ballard’s Farm Sausage plant was engulfed in flames, the facility is still smoldering.

Small fires are still going inside the wreckage of the building which had stood since 1946, but they are contained.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Ryan McFarland said the fire, which started at about 10 a.m. Monday, was caused by an overloaded power outlet in a second-floor office.

McFarland said the office was adjacent to a storage area where the plant kept its corrugated cardboard boxes and foam trays.

“You had an electrical fire with an abundant fuel source, which is why it went up like it did,” he said.

An employee in a cubicle was the first to smell smoke coming from the office, which was unoccupied when the fire started. Another employee doused the fire with a handheld extinguisher, but McFarland said the blaze was out of control from almost the beginning.

“By the time anyone smelled smoke, there was already a fire in the walls they couldn’t see,” he said.

The plant is actually four buildings built together that resemble a single building, McFarland said, and a false ceiling allowed the fire to travel to each of the buildings.

He said the fire was accidental in nature, and the investigation is considered closed.

McFarland estimated more than 40,000 gallons of water were used on Monday, when multiple fire departments worked to contain it and keep it from spreading. Water had to be trucked in by tankers because the fire hydrant at the plant couldn’t sustain the pressure needed to fight the blaze.

About 12 employees were in the building when the fire started, and all were safely evacuated.

Third-generation owner David Ballard said Monday he would have to assess the situation before deciding on the future of the business, which distributes products to multiple states and has been a fixture of the Wayne community for nearly 70 years.

General Manager Ron Kilgore, who has been with the company for 18 years, said such an assessment is still a long way off, and no damage amount has been established.

“I’ve been taking insurance adjusters around today,” he said. “It may take days. I know one guy said he’d be back Monday to take a look.”

Kilgore said he believes Ballard’s plan is to rebuild, but that it is Ballard’s call to make…

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