Is it normal for the United States to experience so many disasters in such a short period of time at major food processing facilities? Since January 1, 2022, America has seen fires, explosions, and plane crashes in plants and distribution centers.
April 21: A plane crashed into a General Mills plant in Covington, Georgia. The Federal Aviation Administration reported that an unidentified small plane crashed within a mile of the runway of the Covington Municipal Airport.
On April 13, a major food California processing plant, Taylor Farms, burned almost completely to the ground.
Also on April 13, a plane crashed into Gem State Processing in Heyburn, East Idaho at about 8:35 a.m. They processed potatoes.
April 11: New Hampshire’s East Conway Beef and Pork experienced a major plant fire.
On March 31: The Rio Fresh onion facility in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas suffered a severely damaging fire. Local media outlet KRGV reported the site employed 300 people and that “hundreds of thousands of warehouse space and structure was damaged from the fire.”
March 28: Maricopa Food Pantry, a local food bank in Arizona, lost 50,000 pounds worth of food in a fire that occurred just 15 minutes after their food bank closed. Company President Mike Connelly described the blaze as one “40-50 feet in the air, just pure black smoke,” that “engulfed the entire neighborhood.”
Also in March, at least 2500 people had to be evacuated in Salinas, California where a four-alarm fire ravaged a food processing plant. Officials feared a possible explosion and hazardous plume of ammonia. A shelter in place order was mandate for about 35,000 people near the Taylor Farms facility.
On March 22: Shearer’s Foods potato chip plant in Hermiston, Oregon was destroyed after a boiler explosion and its subsequent fire annihilated the facility. The boiler was fueled by natural gas and that the company supplied potato and corn chips throughout the western United States. Seven employees were hospitalized in the blast. The facility unemployed nearly 400 people.
March 16: A Walmart distribution center in Plainfield, Indiana where over 1,000 employees shipped food and other supplies all over the region. The fire destroyed the massive 1 million square foot operation.
March 16: A Nestle facility in Jonesboro, Arkansas caught fire on March 16 remained shut down for weeks. The Jonesboro Fire Department said it found a fire inside a “large piece of a production line cooler” at the plant.
The number of food processing plants experiencing such disasters appears to be high, but In the U.S. there were approximately 1,410 warehouse (not just food processing) fires per year between 2014 and 2019. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), these fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 20 civilian injuries, and $159 million in direct property damage.
NFPA indicated there was an average of 22,900 fires per year in storage occupancies for the period 1994-1998. “The leading cause of these fires was intentional fire-setting (arson). Other top fire causes include open flame, embers, or torches, which includes hot work activities such as welding and cutting; electrical distribution equipment such as fixed wiring, transformers, and circuit breakers; other equipment such as fuel-powered and electric-powered equipment.”
“Chemical reactions between incompatible chemicals have also been known to ignite warehouse fires. These top fire causes in warehouse environments consistently remain near the top of the list year after year.”
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