Northern Foods counts cost of Fletchers blaze

21 July, 2006
Page 3 

It took 80 firefighters to bring the Fletchers blaze under control

Northern FOODS said it was “taking it day by day” after a massive blaze ripped through Fletchers Bakeries in Sheffield last Sunday. Around 150 workers of the Northern Foods-owned bakery’s 650 staff were on site when the fire started at 10.30am on 16 July. All were evacuated safely.
The heat from the fire led to a series of explosions, prolonging the blaze and causing parts of the bakery to collapse. The fire was brought under control by 80 firefighters by 7pm on Sunday night, but was still smouldering into the week.The inferno is believed to have started in a processing plant, where a cooler may have exploded. It was blamed by firefighters on a “catastrophic technical failure” and is not being treated as suspicious.Head of communications Hilary Baker said Northern Foods had been unable to get onto the site to assess the damage, but initial reports suggested some production units had been untouched. Fletchers’ customers have been contacted following the fire, she added.Fletchers is a large supplier of speciality breads to customers including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco. Production of its range may be moved to Northern Foods’ other bakeries, including Kara in Manchester, Grain D’Or in London and La Baguette Doree in BarnsleyBaker told British Baker: “We are looking at what production we can move and what we can’t. It is too early to estimate the impact of the damage. We are taking it day by day.”She said the bakery is insured under Northern Foods’ group insurance for property damage and business interruption. However, there is a £4m excess on the policy. Staff are on full pay, she added. Fletchers supplies about 300 customers. Around 85% of its business comes from 15 clients, its largest being Tesco.It makes a range of fresh and frozen bread, rolls and speciality products, including burger buns, doughnuts and scones.Northern Foods’ bakery division, which includes Park Cakes and Smith Flour Mills, was put up for sale on 31 May. The division’s total turnover is £106m a year.



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