Nearly half of structures on dock affected by fire, says processing plant fire witness

The Peter Pan Seafoods processing plant in Port Moller, which suffered heavy damage during a fire that continued to burn into Wednesday, Aug. 16. (Photo courtesy of Peter Pan Seafoods)

The Peter Pan Seafoods processing plant in Port Moller, which suffered heavy damage during a fire that continued to burn into Wednesday, Aug. 16. (Photo courtesy of Peter Pan Seafoods)

Details are emerging slowly on the fire at the Peter Pan Seafoods processing plant in Port Moller.

The 100-year-old plant caught fire late Tuesday night, and the blaze continued to burn Wednesday.

The full scope of the damage is still unclear, but witnesses say it is extensive.

“The main processing facility is located on the dock. About 40 percent of the structures on the dock were affected by the fire,” said Precision Air’s Theo Chesley, who flew an aerial survey over the smoldering buildings Wednesday morning. “It looked like it could have been much worse, but the main generator systems, the cold storage, the refrigeration plant, the holding area and office all were devastated by the fire. About 60 percent of the other structures there on the dock did not burn. However, they could have been affected by the heat.”

Limited power and water have been restored to the plant.

Chesley estimated Thursday morning that there were more than 100 employees at plant employees still in Port Moller.

A winter generator, which is powering the cafeteria but little beyond that, survived the fire, he said.

“Anybody with a pulse and air taxi is trying to help these guys out right now,” Chesley said, describing the effort he and other pilots are making to fly workers out of Port Moller. “The wind is blowing about 35 miles per hour and visibility is not that great, so everybody’s just trying to do what we can and help these people out because they’re in a pretty tough situation.”

Fisherman Jared Danielson fought the blaze early Wednesday morning with a group on the beach while boats tackled it from the water.

They worked hard for about two hours to contain the blaze until building where the fire began collapsed.

“After it collapsed in that small area, we couldn’t get to that section that was still blazing,” Danielson said. “Basically once the wind got to it again, it just spread. We had to basically give up and let it run its course.”

No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire is still not clear.

Peter Pan Seafoods had not provided comment as of Thursday afternoon. However, Danielson said a representative from the company spoke to the Port Moller area over VHF radio Wednesday.

Danielson also spoke with that representative personally.

“We’re going to rebuild with new state-of-the-art technology is the plan. That’s what I was told,” Danielson said. “This fishery has been around a long time, so would only hope that they would do that. I’m third-generation fisherman in Port Moller. It would be devastating if they were just to let this cannery go away and never rebuild.”

For this year, Danielson said that for most fishing out of Port Moller, this signals an abrupt end to the season.

The fire also poses a complication for hauling boats out of the water.

A portion of the dock was cut away to contain the fire.

Danielson said that some boats that planned on hauling out for the winter at Port Moller may have to go elsewhere.

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