Tecumseh mayor Gary McNamara says he's confident the provincial government will come through with assistance in the aftermath of the massive fire that tore through the Bonduelle plant on Friday.
Despite the Tecumseh Fire Rescue Service's estimate of $40 million in damages as a result of the fire, McNamara said he's been told the plant could be partially operational as early as Wednesday. The mayor said discussions on Friday with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, went well.
"At that particular time, they were offering whatever resources the province can give us to attend to the emergency itself and the ability to meet in the near future to look at the rebuilding of the facility," he said.
Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield raised the issue during question period in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Monday. He said he wants the Tecumseh plant to receive the same treatment as the St. Albert Cheese Co-operative's factory, which received a $1 million Ontario grant after it burned to the ground in 2013.
"The money in our Jobs and Prosperity Fund, part of that is carved out specifically for food processing Mr. Speaker, so I know that we will stay in touch with this business and do everything in our power to make sure that it thrives," Wynne responded.
Hatfield also invited the premier to visit the plant to see its condition.
He said he's also optimistic because the fire was mostly contained to the facility's warehouse, so the production line should be able to start up again fairly quickly.
"I think the community will pull together and ... if they upgrade any of that facility, there could be government grants available there at the end of the day," Hatfield said in an interview.
McNamara said the Town of Tecumseh can also help by accelerating demolition and restoration permits. He also said he isn't concerned about permanent job losses, but some workers will likely be displaced until the plant is fully operational.
"Maybe it's an opportunity now to look at the full operations," said McNamara. "The warehouse side of it was always a bit small ... there's an opportunity to even put an expansion to the plant, so there's all kinds of possibilities here if the company is willing to explore that."
Bonduelle employs 200 permanent and 450 seasonal workers at its Tecumseh plant. The vegetable processing facility produces almost 30,000 metric tons of frozen goods and 20,000 metric tons of canned goods.
Most of its supplies are used by Green Giant. A representative from Bonduelle could not be reached by publication time.
Fire crews left the site at 11:30 p.m. Sunday after arriving on the scene 2 a.m. Friday morning. Art Lounsbury, Tecumseh's deputy fire chief, said he can't say for sure if this is typical because the scale of the fire is nearly unprecedented.
"It's obviously the largest fire we've had in our town in 40 years," he said. "Not too many departments have had an opportunity of a fire of this magnitude. So it's hard to say, 'Yes, it's normal,' or not because none of it is normal."
Lounsbury said the department has ruled out arson and is waiting for the full report from the Ontario Fire Marshal, which has completed its investigation. He said he could see their results by the end of the week.
About 100 firefighters from Tecumseh, Windsor, Lakeshore, Amherstburg and Kingsville were extinguishing the fire at its peak, Lounsbury said. Additionally, LaSalle Fire Service covered the south end of Tecumseh while Windsor Fire & Rescue handled the north for any subsequent fire calls.
An evacuation order for residents within the immediate area of the facility was issued Friday morning due to noxious fumes. In all, about 1300 homes were evacuated before the order was lifted later Friday afternoon.