ANCHORAGE - A large fire destroyed the Trident Seafoods processing plant in the Alaska Peninsula village of Chignik Bay.
Residents and others fought the fire for two hours, but were overwhelmed. The area was evacuated because of the possibility that nearby ammonia tanks might explode in the heat, said tribal administrator Debbie Carlson.
More than 250 people worked at the plant in the small community 450 miles southwest of Anchorage. Several went to the local clinic after having trouble breathing and a handful were taken to Anchorage for treatment of possible smoke inhalation.
"It certainly shuts down operations for this year," said Joe Plesha, the company's chief legal officer. "We're going to send everyone home."
The fire started in a power house attached to the main canning facility, Plesha said. A state deputy fire marshal and a trooper are investigating the cause of the fire.
Seattle-based Trident owns a second, now-defunct plant in the area that will likely house the workers until they can fly out in about four or five days, Plesha said.
The village of Chignik Bay has a permanent population of about 80 and does not have fire equipment that can handle such large, quick-moving fires, according to Carlson.
At this time of year, plant workers are usually canning and processing frozen sockeye salmon, Plesha said. There are 100 state permits issued to seiners in the fishery.
Plesha said Trident was sending a floating processor as well as some tenders to temporarily handle the fish. The tenders are slated to haul the fish to processing stations in Sand Point and possibly Kodiak while the company decides what would come next, he said.