Blackwell family determined to rebuild after devastating fire - InfoNews.ca

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Blackwell family determined to rebuild after devastating fire

Owner Ted Blackwell is determined to rebuild and get back in business after the fire.
June 15, 2017 - 1:16 PM

KAMLOOPS – Members of the Blackwell family, employees and neighbours looked on at the smouldering and charred rubble that used to house the Blackwell Dairy farm processing plant. Some wiped away tears, others stared silently, hands in pockets, as firefighters pulled wreckage from the enormous brick building.

No animals were harmed and there were no injuries in the fire that owner Ted Blackwell estimates caused $3.5 million in damage. This is no small time operation. Blackwell Dairy ships products from Revelstoke to Boston Bar and from Clearwater to Keremeos and everywhere in between.

According to Ted's daughter, Laura Hunter, The Blackwell Dairy operation processes about 20 per cent of their own milk and receives the rest from the B.C. Milk Board, which collects it from across the Interior. Hunter says while they have to shut down, producers that supplied milk to Blackwell Dairy won't be affected.

Ted was forced to watch as fire tore through his family's legacy late last night. Firefighters were called to the Barnhartvale farm around 11:30 p.m. last night, June 14.

Despite the tragic setback, Ted and the Blackwell family are determined to rebuild and get back in business.

"There's a few times I had to go by myself," Ted says, wiping away a tear. "You think you are a strong person but there are little things that seem to take over that strength."

As he watched the devastating fire, Ted said all he could think of was how long it would take to get everything running again.

A fire that started late on June 14, 2017 destroyed the Blackwell Dairy processing plant.
A fire that started late on June 14, 2017 destroyed the Blackwell Dairy processing plant.

The Blackwell family is deeply rooted in Kamloops and has lived in the area for more than a century. Ted's grandfather Milton Blackwell settled about a mile away, in the Barnhartvale area in 1913. In 1929 Milton built the farmhouse, now adjacent to the processing plant, that Ted and his wife Gerri live in now.

Ted estimates it'll take at least six months to rebuild and is determined to get rolling again.

"Our customers' needs are every day. There are about 300 major [stores]. How are we going to make sure they get the product without any shortfalls?" he says. 

Carrie Leonard, a long time family friend, was at the farm today, June 15, handing out muffins and coffee to anyone who needed an energy boost.

Leonard says the Blackwells would've stepped up in a heartbeat if anyone else was in need.

"They are hard working people. It's just devastating," she says. "It's a true family business that works so hard to support each other."

Leonard says moving ahead will be challenging, but the Blackwells have support from friends and the community.

"It's not just a farm, it's their whole life. They worked on this farm with their grandparents, and aunts and uncles," she says.

While sending product elsewhere to be processed is an option, Ted is reluctant to put the Blackwell label on anything that isn't processed on the family farm.

"We think it's a damn good business and it isn't going away," he says.

The Blackwell family will have to balance the drastic rebuild with the daily farm responsibilities. 

"We have a large farm to look after," Ted says, head held high, gazing at the destruction. "So we have a lot of work to do still." 

The family owned and run Blackwell Dairy processing plant is a total loss and will need to be rebuilt.
The family owned and run Blackwell Dairy processing plant is a total loss and will need to be rebuilt.

Blackwell Dairy processed dairy from across B.C.'s Interior.
Blackwell Dairy processed dairy from across B.C.'s Interior.

Firefighters were on scene today, June 15, 2017 watching hotspots.
Firefighters were on scene today, June 15, 2017 watching hotspots.

Several delivery trucks were destroyed in the fire.
Several delivery trucks were destroyed in the fire.

All the product housed in the building was destroyed.
All the product housed in the building was destroyed.

The Blackwell Dairy farm has been family run and owned since the beginning.
The Blackwell Dairy farm has been family run and owned since the beginning.

The processing building was still smouldering early on the morning after the June 14, 2017 fire.
The processing building was still smouldering early on the morning after the June 14, 2017 fire.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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