Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

March 26, 2014

Sausage plant burns

Distribution facility destroyed in early morning blaze


PALO PINTO COUNTY – Dozens of firefighters and equipment from three counties responded to a massive blaze that destroyed most of the Kennedy Sausage plant off Interstate 20 at U.S. Highway 281 South.

Palo Pinto County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell said there were two men working at the distribution plant when the fire was reported around 4:30 a.m. He said by the time the first units from Santo Volunteer Fire Department arrived, flames were shooting from a west side vent at the top of the structure and a shipping door.

Harwell said 15 fire departments and 50-60 firefighters responded from Palo Pinto, Erath and even Jack counties, with the Jacksboro and Tolar fire departments sending ladder trucks. The Mineral Wells ladder truck is currently out of service Harwell said. Also responding were officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office.

Members of the Palo Pinto County Disaster Relief Team arrived at the scene and served ribs and rotisserie chicken, donated by Walmart and Golden Chick, to the firefighters.

“The problems we initially had was water supply, and some of the first fire departments in this area are geared primarily for wild fires, not large structure fires,” Harwell said.

There were no injuries reported, either to the workers or to fire personnel.

Harwell said the fire began in the rear distribution area where a lot of cardboard and wrapping materials are stored, providing plenty of fuel for the fire to grow and spread. He said employees were able to go into the front office portion of the structure and remove some furnishings and electronics. He noted the company kept no live livestock on the property.

Harwell estimated the building area destroyed or damaged by the fire at about 30,000 square feet. The cause of the fire remained under investigation Wednesday afternoon, and Harwell planned to speak with the two workers who were present when the conflagration began.

Owners D.L. Funderburgh and Jason Beyer said they received phone calls from the foreman on duty about the fire around 4:45 a.m.

While studying the scene Wednesday afternoon, neither owner was certain of the extent of damage to the plant, although Funderburgh said all of the production area appears to be lost.

“It’s a wreck,” Beyer said. “We’ll be shut down for a good while. I don’t know how long.”

He said the company will try to take care of employees in some way, so that they will be available when the plant reopens. He also plans to keep orders filled through other operations and distribution channels.

“We have other people lined up to get orders out,” he said.

The company has a distribution center in the DFW metroplex to fill orders, so there are options to keep the business intact while the plant is rebuilt, he said.

The business relocated in 2011 from Weatherford to a former livestock sale barn property that it renovated, using in part funds provided through a 20-year, interest-free Texas Capital Fund loan of $560,000 secured by Palo Pinto County through the Industrial Foundation’s efforts to help the company relocate.