Fire razed salmon processing plant in Chile

Located in Punta Arenas, Magallanes, in southern Chile, Entrevientos - the salmon processing plant affected by the fire - is owned 50/50 by Blumar and Multi X.
Fire at the Entrevientos salmon processing plant resulted in the total loss of the facilities where approximately 750 people worked.

Fire at the Entrevientos salmon processing plant resulted in the total loss of the facilities where approximately 750 people worked.

Photo: Entrevientos.

The causes of the fire that on Sunday morning razed the Entrevientos salmon processing plant - the southernmost not only in Chile but in the world - are still unknown. Fortunately, the fire was brought under control without any damage to people or houses nearby, but it meant the total loss of the facilities and, with them, approximately 750 jobs.

From the time the fire started at around 10:30 a.m. until it was brought under control at around 2:00 p.m., some 300 firefighters - according to national television station TVN Chile, which reported the incident live - worked to extinguish it and prevent it from spreading to other adjacent facilities in the industrial zone, including a museum and a sawmill. The images clearly show the dense smoke caused by the fire on a day that - according to the journalist covering the story live - was, fortunately, less windy than usual in the area.

Total loss of facilities with expansion plans

Owned equally by the well-known Chilean salmon companies Blumar and Multi X - through their subsidiaries Salmones Blumar Magallanes and Multiexport Patagonia, respectively - and located in Punta Arenas, in southern Chile, Entrevientos defines itself on its website as "the most modern salmon processing plant in the Magallanes Region," with the capacity to process 72,000 tons of salmon per year.

"Our plant complies with the most demanding certifications worldwide, and we constantly renew our equipment to maintain the highest standard of food safety and minimize the socio-environmental impact throughout the process," the company also says on its website. According to information from Ovejero Noticias, the company had expansion plans.

This local media reported that, in addition to the USD 60 million (EUR 56 million) initially invested in the construction of the plant, in 2022 Entrevientos had added another USD 10 million (EUR 9.33 million) to modernize equipment and set up a second filleting line which, although not yet fully automated, was already operational.

Ovejero Noticias also assures that, in 2023, the company had developed plans to strengthen the output of value-added products, and there was a project to expand its processing capacity with a third fillet and portions line, which was expected to be completed by next year.

All these plans have now been put on hold, as can be seen from the statements on the scope of the fire that - separately - Blumar and Multi X have sent to the Chilean Financial Market Commission. "The fire generated the total loss of the facilities destined for processing and due to the recent events, it is not possible to determine with precision the magnitude of the economic impact it will mean for the Company," said Blumar's statement.

"The damage to Entrevientos facilities was extensive and is under evaluation, however, the operation of the plant is suspended until further notice," added Multi X, which, after deeply regretting what happened, thanked the work and dedication of the institutions and people who participated in extinguishing the fire.

Around 750 workers affected by the incident

Moreover talking about its facilities, the Entrevientos website also highlights the company's commitment to its employees, its customers, the community that welcomes it, and the environment. This is something the owner companies wanted to highlight in their post-incident statements.

"In addition to controlling the fire, Entrevientos' specialized personnel, together with the Fire Department's emergency teams, prevented the flames from reaching the refrigeration room sectors, ensuring that the fire did not generate an environmental contingency," said Manuel Gallardo Araneda, Blumar's Administration and Finance Manager, in his statement to the Financial Market Commission.

"From the very first moment, Entrevientos applied all the procedures and protocols for these contingencies, which allowed the early evacuation of people and the containment of the development of the fire," added Blumar in a subsequent public statement. "Unfortunately, the fire damage reached the entire plant, so we are designing a strategy that will allow us to continue developing the production plan," it continued, before focusing on the affected workers.

"We know this incident represents a major impact on the region, the local economy, and the nearly 750 workers who collaborate at Entrevientos," it stated. "This was one of the most modern plants in the country, with a high labor and technological standard. We are therefore actively collaborating with Entrevientos to take all necessary measures, and act as quickly and responsibly as possible to address this situation."

The other owning company, Multi X, spoke along the same lines. "We are committed to taking prompt and effective action to minimize disruptions to our supply chain and mitigate eventual losses," it said in its public statement following the fire, in which the company was cautiously optimistic.

"Multi X has 15% of its production in the Magallanes region, so without the availability of the Entrevientos plant, the company has the challenge of processing that volume efficiently. Therefore, we are evaluating various processing alternatives in the region, as well as the possibility of transferring part of the production to the tenth region. From a processing point of view, we do not anticipate significant losses," it concluded.

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