Major fishing employer saved from fire disaster
A major fishing community in western P.E.I. has been saved from what could have been a major blow, just weeks before the upcoming spring fishing season.
Royal Star Foods is one of the biggest employers in the Tignish area – a community of approximately 800 people near the Island’s western tip. It has a workforce of close to 400 at peak periods, with most of them drawn from the immediate area.
For fishermen in Tignish and other ports in western Prince County, the co-operative has been a long-time buyer.
However, all that was in real danger of going up in smoke, except for a chance visit to the plant by one of its shareholders.
Rollie Paynter went down to the facility to shovel snow Easter Monday in preparation for the annual shareholders meeting the following day. His son had told him not to bother and volunteered to take on the task the morning of the meeting. If that plan had been followed, the plant would now be laying in rubble.
When Paynter arrived at the facility he went in to check the boiler. It was hot so he shut it off. But by that time a fire had started near the stacks in the attic. Once again, lady luck smiled on the community as another worker visited the plant and noticed the smoke.
Due to a quick response from three area fire departments, the plant escaped without any major damage. In fact, the blaze was out even before it activated the sprinkler system. The meeting had to be postponed, but there will be time to reschedule before the plant gears up for the busy spring season.
Paynter, a long time area fishermen, shudders when he thinks how close the community came to losing one of its major economic drivers. Fishing and fish processing are the major sources of income for most people in the region and Royal Star is the biggest player.
Provincial Fire Marshall Dave Blacquiere agrees. He said the fire had the potential to spread quickly and would have been difficult to get under control. He added the economic losses to the community would have been even greater.