Fire levels Sevita processing plant in Inkerman

The full extent of the damage. Click the image for a larger view. (Supplied photo)

INKERMAN – An all station response from North Dundas Fire Services, aerial support from North Grenville Fire Department and water tanker support from South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services was what it took to contain a recent fire at the Sandy Row Road Sevita International location February 22.

North Dundas fire chief Kreg Raistrick reported that at about 3 a.m. last Thursday North Dundas Fire Services was called to the scene near Inkerman.

“The collaboration with the surrounding Fire departments was incredible,” said North Dundas officials in a February 23 media release.

The fire was contained by 7:30 p.m. that evening.

No injuries to employees or first responders resulted from the fire.

The building where the fire originally started suffered significant damage and was deemed a total loss. Additionally, there was some heat-related damage to existing storage silos.

“Although this fire will have a devastating impact on Sevita, we are very thankful that there were no injuries to anyone on-site,” said Raistrick.

“The cause of the fire is currently unknown,” said Sevita officials in a February 23 statement.

North Dundas interim chief administrative officer Ben deHaan said that the Fire Marshall’s Office is not investigating.

“We are immensely grateful for the support and assistance we have received in the wake of this unfortunate situation,” said Sandy Hart, General Manager of Sevita. “This is a difficult situation but one that I am confident we will overcome as we have with all challenges in the past. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of employees here at Sevita. We would like to extend our immense gratitude to our local first responders who arrived on scene overnight to get things under control and prevent further destruction.”

Value estimates of the damage incurred are not yet available.

“We are still working through what is and is not salvageable from an infrastructure perspective,” Anna Stubbings, sales and marketing coordinator for Sevita International told The Leader on Monday. They are still evaluating damage to the soybeans stored in the bins closest to the fire, which sustained damage.

This Sevita facility has served Eastern Ontario soybean growers and exported soybeans to food manufacturers around the world for more than 30 years.

Over the years, Sevita expanded the facility and recently underwent a $7 million investment to incorporate additional seed and export processing.

The original portion of the plant was the primary export processing facility for Eastern Ontario, while the expansion served as the seed (for planting) processing facility.

Last week’s fire completely destroyed the original portion of the facility.

In a media release Sevita officials said that they are very grateful that fire suppressant measures installed between the two facilities were effective and so they can maintain function of the renovated facility.

Seed for the 2024 planting season is stored in the newly renovated portion of the facility and has not been affected.

Sevita officials are evaluating options for resuming export operations as many of the grain bins at the facility are filled with soybeans from the 2023 harvest, ready to be processed and shipped internationally.

“Our priority right now is getting the recently renovated portion of the plant back up and running,” said Stubbings. “It is capable of cleaning and packaging beans for export as well but has primarily been used for seed thus far.”

She further explained that: “This portion of the plant sustained only minor damage from the fire.”

“All staff on site are fully engaged in the clean up effort and are eager to resume conditioning and packaging via our second cleaning and package line on site, which sustained only minor damage from the fire,” said Stubbings.

“The fire eliminated 50 per cent of the processing capacity on site which will increase our reliance on third party partners in the short term. The elevator system on site remains mostly operational which will allow us to resume bringing in Sevita soybeans currently stored on-farm with local growers relatively soon,” she added. “We have good relationships with toll processors in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec who can help with supplemental capacity in the short term.”

“We anticipate no significant obstacles when it comes to delivering on existing 2024 seed orders or accepting additional orders between now and planting. Farmers who have purchased seed for planting in the coming months will receive it in time for planting.”

The Sevita International site in Inkerman produces food-grade soybeans that are exported throughout the world.

They are an integral partner in the local farming community for the purchase of product from local farmers and are a significant employer in North Dundas.

Sevita cultivates mutually beneficial partnerships with farmers across Canada.

Sevita International has offices located in Woodstock and Inkerman, Ontario, with field representatives located across Eastern Canada.

The company employs 60-70 full-time individuals around the country with an additional seed dealer network that carry Sevita products.

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