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Fire rages at Oamaru meat works

Published: 7:17PM Sunday January 08, 2006 Source: One News

There will be no work on Monday for hundreds of North Otago freezing workers after a major fire broke out in a processing room at the local works.

Eight appliances from as far away as Dunedin were called to the scene on Sunday morning after the alarm was raised by a staff member at the Alliance Pukeuri plant, north of Oamaru. Fire crews were confronted with a difficult task, the fire was fiercely alight inside a two-storey boning room restricted by poor access.

"[The fire is] all confined inside the building so it hasn't come out at all. The heat's still in there," said Oamaru fire chief Gary Gibson.

Additional firefighters with breathing apparatus were called in and were expected to bring the blaze under control by Sunday night.

Anxious onlookers worried about their jobs - during this time of year around 900 people are employed at the works.

"Oh it looks pretty bad. There'll be a few people out of jobs. Might have to sign up for the dole tomorrow I reckon'" said meat processor Nathan Cavanagh.

And coming at the height of the killing season, it will be a big setback for North Otago's biggest employer. Alliance has already confirmed it will not be processing on Monday and the company's management have said it is too early to make decisions beyond then.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.