Pet food company operational again following fire

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a Heddon Bush pet food company was operational again hours after its factory was flattened by fire.

Fordes Petfood factory owner and managing director Cam Moir said the business had been saved by repurposing the main freezer into a new processing plant.

There had been a lot of problem solving since the initial 1.28am phone call on Tuesday.

"It wasn’t a case of, ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do?’ It was a case of, right, let’s put the gummies on, let’s put the gloves on and dig into the soot and find out what we can use to get it going again."

"So we’re using sort of a temporary structure at the moment and I’m already planning the permanent one.

"There’s all these parts that have come together to make Fordes work again.

"It’s not just me. And that’s really special"

He had high praise for his 10 staff and contractors who turned up for work prepared to sift through the ashes for salvageable items.

"My contractors and the guys that support my business, my sparkie and refrigerant guy, dropped everything to come spend the whole day at site to see what we could use them for."

Mr Moir was in Canterbury after a 17-hour drive from the North Island when he got a call saying his business had been wiped out.

"Obviously [I was] pretty shocked and jumped in the vehicle and got down here as quick as I could.

"I met with fire, police and insurance that day and we agreed on what needed to happen."

But he discovered while the factory had been totalled, the main freezer and two other freezer units were not.

"We’ve engineered new rails, bought new hooks, knives, aprons, gumboots and other equipment that were melted by the fire, as well as chemicals, a new water pump and poured concrete.

"We’ve done the drainage — all of this within 48 hours to ensure that we can process hygienically."

The loss of the newly installed plant equipment imported from Europe had not yet been commissioned was the most devastating aspect of the fire.

"There was a large upgrade in the plant that was 90% of the way done.

"We’ve spent well over $150,000 if we added it up.

"[The machinery] had only just gone into the factory.

"It was really heart-wrenching to see that go up in smoke because that was a lot of money invested and a lot of time, heart and soul."

The new plant needed to be MPI re-certified.

"[MPI] have been brilliant ... we let them know straight away. It was about 6.30am when I sent a message to my certifier.

"Her and I formulated some plans that day on what I needed to do to be hygienic and they have been really good to deal with."

The fire came during the busiest time of the farming calendar when farmers were culling stock for the winter season.

"We need to be operational to support that farming network in Southland."

A public open day is among the future plans.

 - By Toni McDonald