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Paynesville Press - December 8, 2004

Fire damages AMPI plant in New Ulm

Fire damaged an Associated Milk Producers Incorporated (AMPI) butter plant in New Ulm last week.

The dairy cooperative was still assessing the extent of the damage of the fire, a company press release stated, and starting to clean up the damage at the butter and packaging plant in New Ulm.

AMPI is a dairy marketing cooperative with more than 5,000 members in the midwest - including numerous cooperative members in the Paynesville area - who annually market five billion pounds of milk. The members operate 12 manufacturing plants, including a cheese plant in Paynesville.

Production at the Paynesville plant should not be affected by the fire, according to plant manager Matt Quade.

The plant in New Ulm was AMPI's only butter manufacturing facility. The full extent of the damage caused by the fire has not yet been determined and may not be known for several days, said general manager Mark Furth, according to an AMPI press release.

In the meantime, AMPI is working to provide uninterrupted service to its customers, with help from other butter manufacturers, said Furth.

The butter plant in New Ulm employs 180 people. Furth was pleased that the 30 employees on duty on Wednesday, Dec. 1, reacted quickly, followed safety protocols, and were all able to evacuate safely.

According to news sources, an estimated three million pounds of butter was released from the plant due to the fire. The Associated Press reported the released butter covered a block-long area that was 50 yards wide and up to 24 inches deep.

The MPCA, according to the Star Tribune, praised the city of New Ulm for its rapid response, including the construction of a sand dike that contained the butter.

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