Firefighters from several departments have converged to battle a fire at Covered Bridge Potato Chips factory in Hartland, a major employer in the New Brunswick town.

The call came in at 6 p.m., said RCMP Cpl. Dan Sharpe. He said 20 to 30 employees were safely evacuated.

By 9 p.m., the fire was still going but the building looked like a total loss, said Summerville resident Kelly Gillin, who lives nearby and watched the fire from across the highway.

“It’s devastating, there’s nothing left,” she said in an interview with CBC News.

“They’re still hauling water to it now, I don’t know how many trucks, I counted seven that were just zooming by back and forth to help put it out.”

WATCH | Fire engulfs well-known New Brunswick local business:

Major fire at Covered Bridge Potato Chips factory in Hartland

Police say everyone made it out safe, but building is likely a total loss. (Submitted by Amy Crawford)

Gillin said heavy smoke had spread far into the St. John River valley.

“It’s a potato chip plant — there’s nothing in there but grease and packed greasy potato chips,” she said. “That’s what left burning right now is probably all of the product and all of the grease that was there. It smelt like burnt grease. It was really raunchy.”

Hartland, Woodstock, Lakeville and Florenceville-Bristol fire departments responded, in addition to the RCMP and Woodstock police for traffic control, Sharpe said.

covered bridge chip factory
The factory is locally owned and a major employer in the town, the mayor said. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The building is located off the Trans-Canada Highway near the local hospital. Police are asking people to stay away from the area.

Sharpe said the cause is still under investigation but that firefighters suspect the facility cannot be saved. 

The company’s website says it was started by Matt and Ryan Albright in 2004 as a potato distribution company, and expanded to potato chips in 2009. The site says it’s a fourth-generation family farming business, where more than 500 acres of potatoes are grown each year for chip manufacturing.

Hartland Mayor Tracey DeMerchant said the business, which has enjoyed worldwide success, has been a “wonderful addition” to the community.

“It’s just heartbreaking to think that the Albright family is going through this,” she said. “I’m just shocked. I can see it from my home like a lot of people in the area, and it’s overwhelming.”

A fire at night in the darkness
The fire had fully engulfed the building and nothing was left by 8:30 p.m., said one local resident. (Submitted by Kelly Gillin)

She said the town will support the business in the coming days and will be reaching out to the owners.

“We are a closely-knit community, and we either know someone who works there or has family who works there, so we’re all hit by this loss,” DeMerchant said.

“This is people’s livelihood and this is someone’s business that they’ve grown from the bottom up. It’s devastating.”

Hartland chip factory fire
The fire was called in at 6 p.m., RCMP said. (Submitted by Andre Lajoie)

Gillin said there were countless people who were in the area watching the flames, despite the RCMP’s advice to steer clear.

“I’m going to say people are curious, but more than that it’s a business right here in our community that’s gone,” Gillin said.

As a lifelong resident of the Hartland area, she said she feels for all the locals whose employment is now in jeopardy — as well as the Albright family.

“They support the community, they donate to everything that’s going on, they support the whole area in charitable functions and all that. They’re wonderful people,” Gillin said.

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