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Fire at Organic Valley in La Farge

By Pauleen Le, ple@wkbt.com
Published On: May 14 2013 05:59:23 PM CDT
Updated On: May 15 2013 07:38:24 PM CDT
LA FARGE, Wis. -

A fire causes significant damage to the Organic Valley Headquarters in La Farge.

However, all 500 employees are accounted for.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, but now all employees can do is wait to see what is actually salvageable and to plan on how to rebuild.

It was a reaction employees train for at Organic Valley in La Farge.

"The fire alarm probably went off around 4:30 and everyone was out of the building within three or four minutes," said the co-op's executive marketing director Lewis Goldstein.

Goldstein was in the building at the time. He thought it was just a drill.

"Then there was the smell of smoke," said Goldstein.

"When we arrived, there was fire involved on the west end of the building," said chief Phillip Sittleberg of the La Farge Fire Department.

Crews throughout Vernon County and Richland Center fought to get the fire under control, but solar panels on the roof and thick windows made things difficult. The wind didn't help either.

"It has been blowing the fire towards the unburned portion of the building," said Sittleberg.

Christopher Dahl's office is on the west end of the building.

"Where the ladder is right, now I am not on the top floor, but directly below it," said Dahl.

He already left work before the fire started.

"(I) called my boss who was still here at work and he said, 'It's not good Chris,'" said Dahl.

Several hours later, flames still burned and employees and their families continue to watch as hope in saving the west end of the building fades.

"I'm probably not going to have an office to go to tomorrow, and now I'm just hoping that the rest of the edition, or the office, is salvageable," said Dahl.

Goldstein said employees will not return for work Wednesday, but by Wednesday, the computer system and internal Internet sites should be up and running. Goldstein said that is where employees will find what the next steps will be.

The building damaged in the fire didn't house any equipment or product, only employee offices.

About two-thirds of the building is said to be badly damaged.

Sittleberg doesn't expect to know the cause until tomorrow at the earliest.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED:

The Vernon County Sheriff's Department confirmed a fire broke out late Tuesday afternoon at the Organic Valley Headquarters in La Farge.

slideshows_icon[1] SLIDESHOW: Pictures From Organic Valley Fire

The fire started around 4:30 at the main building, located off of Highway 131.

All 500 employees made it out safely, according to Organic Valley's executive marketing director.

As of 9 Tuesday night, the fire was still going.

The La Farge fire chief says strong winds, solar panels on the roof and thick windows are making it difficult to put out. He is unsure of a cause and says Wednesday is the earliest to expect one.

Employees will not return to work Wednesday.

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