OFM on scene of Paletta fire

BURLINGTON — The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal is preparing to investigate a massive fire that ripped through the Paletta meat-processing plant.

Burlington firefighters are also on scene at Paletta International Corporation near Appleby Line and the QEW as they continue to douse hot spots with aerial devices and liaise with the fire marshal's office.

The blaze broke out at 4480 Paletta Court just after 4:10 p.m. Wednesday and continued to burn for hours, eventually consuming at least a third of the facility.

"I honestly think we'll be here most of the rest of the day, one way or another," Burlington fire Chief David Lazenby said Thursday.

Because of the size of the fire, crews want to make sure there are no flare- ups from fallen debris, he said.

The Burlington fire department is also working with on-site maintenance staff to assess what's left of the refrigeration system and determine whether any action needs to be taken as if ammonia was released.

The Ministry of the Environment has been called and was on scene Wednesday and Thursday, Lazenby said.

"Now that we've got the benefit of daylight, we're using drone footage to get an assessment of what's the scale of the damage and what can we do to manage what ammonia might be left in the system."

Lazenby said it's too early to determine the cause of the fire and damage caused by it, but noted it is "significant."

"I think the main thing is all we all need to consider the impact for the employees here," he said. "Our hearts go out to them and our thoughts are certainly with them."

Firefighters from Oakville and Hamilton were asked to help the Burlington department fight the blaze.

Angelo Paletta, president of the longtime family firm, said Wednesday night the fire had left him "in shock."

"It's definitely not the Christmas present I was looking for," he told The Spectator.

All workers that were in the large building when the fire started made it out without injury.

Normally, between 150 and 200 workers are in the building where turkey, chicken and pork are processed, Paletta said.

"Today, they were doing some maintenance, repairs … Thank God there wasn't a lot of staff there today."

Paletta International Corporation moved to Burlington in 1964 and built the 15,000-square-foot meat plant alongside the QEW. In 2013, Paletta built a 90,000-square-foot freezer on Glover Road in Hamilton.

The firm has also developed residential units, buildings and expanded into film, media and entertainment.

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