Fire at Paturel puts about 160 people out of work

Roger Garbin photo

Deer Island – A fire in the early hours of Thursday morning has gutted Paturel International’s processing plant on Deer Island, putting approximately 160 employees out of work.

Firefighters from the island were joined by about 40 from St. George, Blacks Harbour, Saint Andrews, and Fundy Bay, who were ferried over to the island to help fight the blaze, which broke out around 2:22 a.m.

“The main plant is down to the ground. The processing plant is completely destroyed. It was too far gone when we got here. About 160 people will be out of work here,” said Blacks Harbour Fire Chief Dale Shaw Jr. from the scene Thursday morning.

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He said firefighters would remain on the scene throughout the day, fighting hot spots and were waiting for an excavator to arrive Thursday morning.

This is the second blaze at the facility, as fire destroyed a lobster tank house there last September.

Sgt. Chris Henderson of St. George RCMP said they received a call of a structure fire at Paturel at 2:22 a.m. from some employees who were at the scene.

“We responded with fire crews from Deer Island and the mainland. When our members arrived, the structure was fully engulfed. At this time the cause of the fire is undetermined.

“The fire is contained right now. The fire marshal’s office representatives are on the scene and the cause is still under investigation. They are working through to determine the cause.

“It is a significant loss. I don’t know how it will impact their operations.”

Joyce Stuart, who chairs the West Isles LSD, said the fire is going to have an awful impact on the island.

“This is going to be devastating. I don’t know how many people will be out of work but it will be a lot, and not just island people, but people from the mainland as well.

“In the summer time the ferry could not handle the workers coming here from the mainland so we had an extra ferry brought in. It is going to take a while before it will be rebuilt. I would think six to eight months.

“I just feel badly for everybody. I just cannot believe what happened. That fire a while ago put a lot of people out of work. Now another one. It is heartbreaking. There really is no words to describe it.”

Paturel International and its affiliates make up the world’s largest distributor of live North American lobster. It is a major employer on the island and a number of the employees come from the Philippines.

For a more in-depth story, see Tuesday’s The Saint Croix Courier.