With a still smoldering fire at the huge Patrick Cudahy & Sons meat processing plant, Cudahy Mayor Ryan McCue praised his city's department leaders. "Our emergency personnel did and continue to do an outstanding job," said McCue. "At a time when we were asking residents to leave the city of Cudahy, we were asking our first responders to put their lives on the line, and they did so with heroism & excellence."
Cudahy Fire Chief Dan Mayer said the fire which began Sunday is now under control. Firefighters remain on the scene and are monitoring a couple of hot spots. "We do still have crews actively fighting the fire," said Mayer. "We have been rotating the crews in and out, we have been rehabilitating them, letting them get their rest and feeding them. That's why we need so many crews to do this, because it is such a massive mobilization effort."
There were no injuries as a result of the fire, which began Sunday. Mayer says "an educated guess" is that the blaze began in the roof of the processing plant. He says a smoky fire in the roof of the plant was difficult to pinpoint Sunday night. "Picture a leak in your roof when it's raining," explained Mayer. "The rain might get in over here . . . but might not come into the house until two or five or even ten feet away. That's kind of the way the smoke was."
Mayer said the fire was below the roof but above the plant's sprinkler system, and firefighters were pulled off the roof when it became compromised. It eventually collapsed into a portion of the plant containing ammonia tanks, which posed a potential hazard and the need for evacuations. "We sent a couple of teams in first to do some recon first, and then to actually try to contain that ammonia. That was successful," even as the fire continued to burn. Mayer said there are not believed to be any other hazardous chemicals in the plant. Although bacon has been processed at the plant for more than a century, Mayer does not believe grease was a significant contribute to the blaze.
Mayer said firefighters saved key portions of the plant. "In terms of the heart of the building, and the offices and headquarters, and the ability for Patrick Cudahy to get back online as soon as possible, I think we did a pretty good job of stopping it before it got into those areas."
Cudahy Mayor McCue said practice paid off, as his city dealt with the crisis. "Roughly two years ago, the city of Cudahy, along with Patrick Cudahy, had a full scale exercise, to make sure we knew how to respond to a situation like this," said McCue. "I think our exercise and our response and practice paid off." There were no injuries as a result of the fire at the massive plant. McCue says 27 fire departments used eighteen million gallons of water, equivalent to the contents of 13 water towers, in battling the blaze. Because of that, residents are being asked to conserve water.