Montana News

Nov 26, 2013 12:10 PM by Claire Anderson - MTN News

MT honey plant fire causes problems for holiday season

POWER - The Smoot Honey of Montana company in Power burst into flames on Friday afternoon after a furnace malfunction in the packaging area.

More than 40 firefighters, including crews from Dutton, Fairfield, Choteau, and Vaughn responded to the large fire as flames burst out the windows.

Employees scrambled to get honey and the products out of their garage as crews fought the flames from ladders.

No one was injured in the fire, and it's estimated to have caused as much as $1 million worth of damage.

The company is now picking up the pieces before their busiest season.

"Clearly it's a setback, it came at a lousy time of year as far as being able to pack our honey goes," Smoot Honey Company Vice President Mark Jensen said.

Smoot Honey Company produces around 600,000 pounds of honey each year, and sends their Montana-made products all over the country - and with the holidays right around the corner the timing of the fire is bad news.

"It's going to slow us down, our big concern right now is being able to pack honey for our customers, in particular going into the holiday season," said Jensen.

The steel sidings and walls of the building helped contain the fire within the furnace room, where the fire started, but it managed to burn most of the honey-packing containers.

"We believe the fan seized and overheated and when it overheated it caught the wiring in the furnace room on fire caught the wall on fire and from there it was just off to the races," Power Fire Chief Erik Somerfeld said.

Luckily, a significant amount of the packaging was done several weeks ago in preparation for the holidays.

"Because around Thanksgiving time until Christmas is when we do a lot of shipping of gift packs and stuff like that. We had packed some honey in anticipation of that so we didn't have to do it in the middle of all that, which turned out to be a good choice to have done," said Jensen.

It's expected to cost over $500,000 to rebuild the most damaged parts of the building, and the company will see no insurance money to help.

"We didn't carry property insurance on the buildings do to the nature of the contents. It's quite expensive to insure it because of the plastic and the cardboard, bees wax, wooden ware. All these things that burn really well when they get set on fire," Jensen said.

The company hasn't carried property insurance for almost 50 years, and unfortunately this year was dealt a bad hand.

"It's going to be expensive and we're not going to like it very well, but we'll be able to do it somehow or another," said Jensen.

After almost 50 years of honey harvest, the fire will not stop this Montana family business, and they'll try to get their honey out for the holidays the best they can.

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