PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. (CP) - Firefighters faced hazardous
chemicals and struggled with low water pressure as a huge fire
swept
through the J.S. McMillan cannery early Wednesday.
Deputy fire chief Jim Martin said crews were making progress
controlling the fire that had consumed three-quarters of the fish
processing plant and were containing the threat to ammonia tanks on
the site.
"It's a very heavy fire and we have very limited resources,"
Martin said.
"We couldn't even approach it when we first got here."
The blaze, which lighted the pre-dawn skies with a shower of
glowing embers and threw out billows of smoke that could be seen
across town, drew out crowds to vantage points outside the police
blockade.
"It's not funny," said one distraught employee, sobbing in the
arms of a friend. "Now I won't have a job."
Another employee said it was the second time he lost work due to
a fire.
"They called me and said the plant's on fire and told me not to
come in today. It happened at a sawmill I was working at, the hog
pile caught on fire and that was it."
There was a substantial amount of ammonia in the plant's engine
room.
"It's all been shut down and isolated now, but we would have
initiated an evacuation of this area, because we have been down
this road before," Martin said.
"We did have ammonia venting out of the main structure for a
while. We believe it has now all burned off."
Lawrence Heal, utilities foreman for Prince Rupert, said the
fire is situated at the end of the water line.
"They're not going to run out of water, it's just that the
pressure is going to be down because of where they are at," Heal
said.
Local tug boat companies and the coast guard helped to move
boats from the dock near the blaze.
"There was a heroic effort by a lot of people to move the
boats," Martin said.
Plant owner Dan McMillan said the facility is fully insured. He
was en route to the plant from Vancouver on Wednesday. (Prince
Rupert Daily News)

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)