Employees laid off after fire guts Northeast Oregon potato chip plant

By AP staff (AP)
Hermiston, Ore. March 9, 2022 2:33 p.m.

Two weeks after a fire severely damaged a plant that produced chips and salty snacks in Northeast Oregon the company says it will lay off all of the site’s employees.

The Shearer’s Foods plant in Hermiston caught fire after a propane boiler exploded on Feb. 22. Six people were injured.

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From a ladder, a firefighter douses flames with black smoke on the roof of a potato chip factory.

From a ladder, a firefighter douses flames with black smoke on the roof of the Shearer’s Foods plant near Hermiston, Ore, on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.

Nick Oatley / Umatilla County Fire District 1

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Shearer's CEO Bill Nicktakis announced in a news release Tuesday that the company decided to lay off the employees, The Tri-City Herald reported. The East Oregonian reported that the plant currently employs 230 people.

The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office said the cause of the fire appeared to be a portable natural gas-powered boiler that exploded.

Nicktakis estimated that it would take more than a year to rebuild and resume production.

“After assessing the damage, it’s clear that the destruction is too great to quickly rebuild and begin production in the near term,” Nicktakis wrote.

He said the company is exploring opportunities to relocate employees interested in working at other plants. According to the company’s website, the Hermiston location was their only facility on the West Coast.

Nicktakis also said the company will provide a severance package and continuation of benefits and will work to plan events such as job fairs.

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