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Investigation continues into food processing plant fire

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BURLINGTON, Wisc (WSAU)   Authorities are poring through the rubble of a Burlington egg processing plant, to find out why it started on fire Wednesday night. The blaze destroyed the production area of Echo Lake Foods, which makes a host of pre-cooked breakfast products. Most of it goes to wholesalers and large government facilities like schools and prisons.

Burlington Fire Chief Richard Lodle said the warehouse area was not burned, because it was separated by fire-walls. No one was hurt. About 50 nearby residents returned home yesterday, after being evacuated overnight due to concerns about a possible ammonia leak. Mayor Bob Miller said the hazardous materials were contained. State emergency management officials said there was a minor release of ammonia residue from pipes – and they’re monitoring the air quality.

About 300 fire-fighters from 88 departments battled the blaze for more than 15 hours. State officials said some of the fire equipment froze up with temperatures in the teens – and runoff water also froze, which made the footing risky for the fire-fighters.

Echo Lake Foods has about 300 employees, and they can start filing for unemployment benefits next week. The mayor says he’ll do what he can to help the plant rebuild. The Racine County Economic Development Corporation said it has some tax credits and loans available – but they’re not sure how much could be available.

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