Hundreds of employees of a southeastern Wisconsin food processing plant were unsure of what their futures held after a massive fire destroyed their workplace.
"I worked really hard trying to find a job," Tina Juarez, an employee at Echo Lake Foods in Burlington, said Thursday. "Now to lose it, it's really hard. ... There's a lot of people without jobs. A lot."
Juarez said she wasn't at work when the fire broke out but is usually in the production facility where the flames erupted.
"It's horrifying to think I could've been in there, or my husband," she said.
The fire started Wednesday evening and reached eight alarms. Smoke inhalation concerns prompted the evacuation of roughly 50 people from nearby homes and an apartment complex.
With the help of more than 80 agencies from throughout the area, the fire was contained by midday Thursday and those residents were allowed to return home.
No injuries were reported and a cause of the fire was still unknown as of 4 p.m.
The plant uses ammonia in its manufacturing of egg products but officials said fire suppression measures and plant safety systems prevented any release of the gas.
"The situation is stable at this time," Burlington spokesman Kevin Lahner said in a statement.
The Echo Lake Foods plant covers about 70,000 square feet and employs about 300 people. as Burlington's largest employer, Mayor Bob Miller said the fire "will affect the city greatly."
He promised to work with the company to help them rebuild and reopen as soon as possible.
Last week in Chicago more than 200 firefighters battled a five-alarm blaze at an abandoned warehouse in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Freezing temperatures left six to eight inches of ice on the building's exterior as the fire within rekindled several times.
Crews began demolishing the warehouse last Friday.