A well-known meatpacking facility is now a heap of scrap metal after a devastating fire took place at the Kikel Meat Packers near Bashaw.
At approximately 1:45 p.m. in the afternoon on Sat. March 7, owner Marla Kikel saw smoke starting to billow from the adjacent shop near her home in the yard.
Husband Rick Kikel went into the building to hopefully stop the fire before it consumed the building by cutting power to the gas metre and powerline.
Marla called 911 and the nearby Hutterite colony at the same time. Rick soon became overwhelmed by the smoke and exited the facility.
The Hutterites arrived and began moving vehicles out of the way and disconnected and moved a large propane tank.
Another neighbour also came as well as their son Brett Kikel.
In the end, six fire departments attended the scene including Bashaw, Ferintosh, Ponoka, Alix, New Norway and Camrose County.
EMS also attended.
Rick was starting to have chest problems which turned out to be smoke inhalation so the couple were transported to hospital.
He is doing well but is seeking further medical opinions to monitor the situation and ensure his well being.
Many trucks quickly ran out of water but the nearby Hutterite colony did have a system to fill quickly.
This helped but was not enough to stop the fire completely so a trackhoe was called in to tear walls down and further diminish the fire.
By 8 p.m. the fire was finally out and everyone had returned home.
A cause for the fire is yet to be determined.
Plenty of customers would like to see the family rebuild but the family is still processing what happened that day and is unsure of what direction they will take in the future.
“At this point in time, we are just not sure yet. We have to deal with a few things and process and go from there,” said Marla. “It’s tough because it was all our life. It’s a lot of mixed emotions. It’s very hard when you get up in the morning and you’re so busy and you just want to get out to the shop and it’s just not there.”
Rick added, “It’s not the insurance, it’s the farmers and the workers.”
“We had some of those customers for a long, long time,” said Marla.
The building itself is a total write-off with nothing left to salvage other than sheet metal.
The family is extremely appreciative for all that attended the fire to help as well as their dedicated customers for support over the years.
“For volunteer firefighters, they did a wonderful job,” said Marla. “It was so close to our house. We thought we could possibly lose our house too but they did a wonderful job of containing it.”
Marla added, “We had a very good customer base for many years.”
Kikel Meat Packers began in 1982 right after Rick and Marla married and decided to move back to Rick’s family farm northeast of the Town of Bashaw.
Over time, the building was expanded from just processing to adding an entire government inspected kill floor.
Rick went to Lethbridge College for butchering and cutting meat, gaining many high accolades and scholarships which he transferred into the longstanding business the pair built together.
“Rick’s parents were getting older and we started small and then it just kept growing and growing. Then we had the help from the kids, Brett and Tara. They both helped us quite a bit in the shop. They did a lot to help [keep] it going,” said Marla.
“It’s sort of been a family thing for a long time.”
The local family serviced a large part of Alberta to areas like Morrin and Rumsey, Castor, Stettler, Sherwood Park, Rimbey and Millet to name a few.
She added, “It’s hard. We worked it from the ground up. We started hauling water by hand. We didn’t even have running water.”
Since the kill floor was installed, they supplied BBQ pigs and sows for Chinatown in Edmonton and a few other customers as well.
The Kikel’s have two dogs including a dachshund named Penny. “The only weiner we have left from the shop is the weiner dog,” joked Marla.