The Peter Pan Seafoods processing plant in Port Moller has been devastated by a massive fire that burned through the night and into Wednesday morning.
No one has been reported injured, but power, running water and most phone and internet connections are down in remote community.
“The fire started kind of in the production end of things, kind of the freezing warehouse at Peter Pan Seafoods last night. And consumed most of the production facilities that we can tell,” said Bob Murphy, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management biologist based in Port Moller.
Murphy was reached a little before 8 a.m. Wednesday.
“Nobody’s been able to get down there because the fire’s still going. There’s obviously very, very extensive damage to the main production facility and office for Peter Pan, [it] is definitely consumed in fire. We can’t see some of the facilities on the other dock because the smoke is so heavy, so we don’t know what the status of those are … obviously still there’s a fire going on at this time. The main warehouses and all the living quarters are OK, and everybody’s safe, is the main thing.”
Murphy had just gone into work to try and restore the state services.
“I’m literally on my knees in the office right now trying to plug stuff in,” Murphy said. “We’ve got emergency generators here so we can get a functioning office right now, because all the power is out in Port Moller.”
A fisherman who watched the fire from his vessel reported that he saw flames shooting 150 feet high.
“The dock was cut to prevent the fire from basically coming towards more buildings,” Murphy confirmed, who said it was burning past the point of being able to contain it.
The cause of the fire has not been given.
Port Moller is “Peter Pan’s most remote facility,” according to the company website. The PPSF corporate office in Seattle had not offered comment by 9 a.m.
Murphy offered his best perspective on the firefighting efforts that were still ongoing.
“They have fire suppression systems here, and they’ve got water lines and hoses and such, and those were all used early on trying to keep the fire at bay, but it’s a 100-plus-year-old building, buildings, and lots of old timber and dry timber, and once it got going it was really hard, couldn’t stop it,” he said. “It went on for several hours, probably at least two hours I think, maybe two and a half, before it just got so intense. And now you’re down to where there’s fuel and there’s ammonia tanks and lines, and gets to the point where it starts being very dangerous to be around, and there was no way to keep fighting it.”
Murphy said he will continue to publish catch and escapement numbers for the Area M North Peninsula fisheries, and will likely make management decisions today as well, but he’s not sure if the fleet will be able to fish without their buyer able to take the catch.
“I have no what’s going to happen, but they will not be processing fish at the Port Moller plant, that’s for sure,” Murphy said.