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Nestle fire under investigation, ‘malicious intent’ not suspected

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 6:20 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 18, 2022 at 11:03 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - After burning for nearly 24 hours, the fire at Nestle is finally out.

Chief Kevin Miller with the Jonesboro Fire Department said Thursday afternoon crews had finally knocked down the fire that started Wednesday afternoon, but they will remain to clean up and knock down any flare-ups.

Multiple engines, battalions, and trucks responded to 1 Nestle Way, just off Highway 18, at 4:17 p.m. Wednesday, March 16.

Firefighters worked in teams throughout the night to control the fire.

“Eight trucks and units rotated throughout the duration of the fire,” Miller said. “About 30 to 35 firefighters were involved.”

While the cause of the fire is still undetermined, Miller said they do not suspect malicious intent.

Nestle promises to pay employees

A spokesperson for Nestle USA said Thursday the plant will remain closed as they investigate the fire.

“The situation at our Jonesboro factory is under control and we are looking into the cause of the fire,” she said.

She confirmed that no employees were injured and all were safe.

Employees should not report to work until further notice. She assured Region 8 News employees will be paid during the closure.

“The factory will remain closed as we assess the damage and return the factory to full operation,” the spokesperson said. “We plan to continue to support our employees financially during this time.”

She added that the company is in “direct contact” with its employees and will continue to provide them with updates.

The situation at our Jonesboro factory is under control and we are looking into the cause of the fire. Thankfully, no employees were injured and all are safe. We appreciate the quick response of the Jonesboro Fire Department and emergency response teams. The factory will remain closed as we assess the damage and return the factory to full operation.

We plan to continue to support our employees financially during this time. We are in direct contact with our employees and will continue to provide them with updates.

Nestle USA

Ryan White, an employee for Nestle, said he is counting his blessings after he was released from his 12-hour shift at the production line six hours early.

“If we would’ve stayed, we would’ve been right in the line of that fire,” White said.

While the fire was happening, White mentioned he was worried about the safety of his coworkers, knowing the facility is large and hard to get around.

White said he is glad to know his family will be taken care of while he is off the job, saying he will use his free time to be more productive and spend time with his four teenage boys.

Battling the Fire

When crews arrived Wednesday afternoon, they found a fire inside a “large piece of a production line cooler,” JFD said in a Thursday news release.

“Due to the construction makeup of the cooler, the fire could not be easily accessed,” they said.

More than 12 hours after they first arrived, crews continued Thursday morning to fight a fire...
More than 12 hours after they first arrived, crews continued Thursday morning to fight a fire at Nestle.(Jonesboro Fire Dept.)

While crews were outside the building, they heard a loud explosion from the building and were “forced to stage back.”

Miller said everyone managed to get out of the plant safely.

“Due to the nature of the explosion, the immediate area of that particular building was deemed structurally unsafe and all further suppression efforts were forced to take place from the exterior only,” JFD said.

During the overnight hours, the fire department used drones provided by the Jonesboro Police Department to get a look at the structure and where the fire might be centered to better attack it. A Medic One ambulance crew also remained on the scene in case any medical help was needed.

More than 12 hours after they first arrived, crews continued Thursday morning to fight a fire...
More than 12 hours after they first arrived, crews continued Thursday morning to fight a fire at Nestle.(Jonesboro Fire Dept.)

The city of Jonesboro said on social media that they were thankful for the quick response from firefighters to the scene and will work to assist the company.

“We stand ready to assist Nestle with their needs during the rebuilding process and look forward to seeing this pillar of our community back in full operation soon,” the city’s news release stated.

Nestle in Jonesboro

According to the Jonesboro Unlimited website, the company has 785 employees and opened in 2001.

In December of 2020, Nestle USA announced it would invest $100 million to expand the Jonesboro factory, bringing 100 more jobs to the area.

The factory produces frozen foods for the company’s Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, DiGiorno, and Tombstone brands.

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