Minimal structural damage at Gilster-Mary Lee after fire

PERRYVILLE, MO (KFVS) - The plant manager at Gilster-Mary Lee in Perryville says the building received minimal structural damage after a fire Sunday.

According to Perryville Police, numerous crews fought a fire Sunday at the Gilster-Mary Lee cake plant on 520 Old Saint Marys Rd. in Perryville.

According to Perryville Assistant Fire Chief William Jones, it was a minor fire and has been put out.

Jones says they believe the fire started in a trash can on the 4th floor of the building.

It then moved to the wood floor and the wood ceiling on the 3rd floor.

The damage is mainly confined to a 10x10 area in the building.  The plant lost one day of production while the employees helped clean the building.

No employees missed time, because they worked to clean the building. There are several hundred employees working in that building.

The plant manager expects the plant to be up and running, as normal by Tuesday.

Both Jones and Perryville firefighter Jesse Unverferth say Sunday's fire showed how important it is to have a sprinkler system.

"The fire was never really necessarily out of control, the fire sprinkler system inside the building kept the fire in check for the main part," said Unverferth. "Had it not been for that, it would have been a lot worse fire."

"Especially if it's on a floor that's not occupied, basically you have to wait until somebody sees the smoke, or sees the flame, and that gets well beyond the point that we want it to get," said Jones.

Unverferth says as of this time, he doesn't think the building will need to cease production, but he says there will be a lot of clean up.

Jones says there were no injuries from the fire.

Fire crews from Perryville, Ste. Genevieve, Frona-Altenburg and St. Marys were on the scene.

Now people from the community worry what Sunday's fire, will mean for Monday morning.

"It's just one of those things where it hits the heart of the town," said Terry Brewer.

Brewer is just one of the many people worried about the future of the plant.

"It's pretty big a lot of people are worried about their jobs and if they're going to be working or what," said Brewer.

"Well a lot of people are here, freaking, thinking are we going to have a job to go to," said employee Janice Leimbach.

Leimbach has worked at the company for 7 years. She says she's worried for herself, friends, and co-workers.

"There's not really enough places to put them in other places," said Leimbach. "Like me I could probably work at the cereal or somewhere else on the dock, because I'm a dock worker, but then again I don't know."

Perryville firefighters don't think it should take too long to get up and running again.

"It shouldn't cease production for everything but there is going to be some area that's going to take a lot of clean up," said Unverferth.

"With a minor amount of work, they'll be able to get the building up and running in probably a relatively short term," said Jones.

And short term, seemed to be a theme for the day. Jones said in order to prevent heat injuries, they rotated each firefighter in for a 10 or 15 minute time span.

"We worked in shifts, and we worked with numerous departments so we could rotate people in and out on a fairly quick basis to avoid any heat injuries," said Jones.

"The heat was probably the worst part about this fire, the fire wasn't big, but it took a lot of effort, and because of the heat you wear guys out really really fast," said Unverferth.

Now for Brewer, and community members, it's just a wait and see to what happens with production.

"Not only does this community thrive on it, all the communities around," said Brewer.

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