Blackwell Dairy is milking a comeback

A Kamloops dairy shuttered since fire broke out in its production plant last year hopes to hire staff before re-opening in February, according to a company spokeswoman.

Blackwell Dairy’s plant was destroyed by a fire that broke out in the early-morning hours of June 13, 2017. The venerable diary producer has been offline since.

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Fire investigators never pinpointed the cause of the blaze, which began near the loading docks of the building. The loss of the building was estimated at $3.5 million, while total losses from the fire were estimated at $5 million.

Spokeswoman Laura Hunter, whose father, Ted Blackwell, built the Barnhartvale dairy plant in the 1980s, said construction of the new plant is nearing completion.

“We’re going to open Feb. 1,” she said. “Things are going well. The building looks great. We’re still looking very much forward to getting our product back on the shelves.”

Hunter said the new plant was built on the footprints of the facility initially built by her father.

Blackwell fire
No injuries were reported following a June 13, 2017, blaze at Blackwell Dairy’s processing plant in Barnhartvale — a fire that saw flames shoot up to 50 feet in the air and left the family-owned dairy farm unable to bottle milk for some time. - KTW FILE PHOTO

“It’s quite a bit different inside,” she said. “It’s up to code because standards have changed over the years.”

The rebuilt plant will be updated with new technology. The company has said its goal continues to be permitting tours, particularly from schools, through the facility.

Since the fire, Blackwell has been trucking its milk to other producers for processing and packaging.

Blackwell had 300 retail customers prior to the blaze. Hunter said she expects the same business to return in February.

She said Blackwell will be hiring 10 to 15 employees in January and February ahead of the re-opening.

At the time of the fire, the operation employed 75 people.

Blackwell Dairy has been operating in some form since 1913.

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