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Darigold resumes partial production in Caldwell four months after fire

The company announced the resumption of partial butter production operations Feb. 2, four months after a devastating fire tore through the 91-year-old facility.

CALDWELL, Idaho — It has been four months since a five-alarm fire tore through the Darigold milk-processing facility in Caldwell on Oct. 12, 2021. Last week, the company announced it has resumed partial butter production at its 91-year-old dairy facility. 

Darigold director of communications Chris Arnold told KTVB "it's certainly been busy since the fire."

"Since then we've had teams working around the clock seven days a week to get the place cleaned, and identify the extensive damage and do the restorations," Arnold said. 

According to Darigold's announcement on resuming production Feb. 2, the Caldwell plant houses one of the largest butter churns in the U.S. and produces a large portion of Darigold's butter and milk powder. Its products are produced for the farmer-owned co-op.

More than 100 people were employed by Darigold at the facility in Caldwell before the fire. Arnold said it was important for the company to help their staff following the shutdown. 

"We set for ourselves a goal to find work for all of those employees in other Darigold facilities," Arnold said. 

Arnold said employees impacted by the fire's damage were primarily employed at the Darigold facilities in Boise and Jerome, Idaho. 

Prior to the fire last fall, the Caldwell plant processed around 1.4 million pounds of milk per day. On top of its employees, Darigold said the company’s farmer-owners throughout the Gem State also depend on the Caldwell facility for their livelihoods. 

Fortunately, no one was injured by the fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation and Darigold said getting the plant up to speed for partial production to resume required its teams of contractors to demolish or secure parts of the building that suffered the most significant damage.

"We really couldn't have done this without a whole lot of collaboration and cooperation," Arnold said. 

Darigold officials said work in the butter production sections of the Caldwell facility included repairing fire and smoke damage, cleaning and sanitizing, and re-running utilities to the butter area from the main portion of the plant. 

In other areas of the plant where damage was more severe from the fire, work continues to get back to normal. Milk powder production remains entirely shut down, according to Darigold

Editor's note: The video below was published Oct. 12, 2021, when the fire at the Caldwell Darigold facility occurred.

“When news of the fire broke, our first concern was for the safety and well-being of our employees in Caldwell, who acted with great courage and urgency to help ensure that everyone was safely evacuated from the building,” Joe Coote, chief executive officer at Darigold said. “When we knew that our employees were safe, we directed the full weight of our co-op to ensuring that milk pickups would continue in order to mitigate losses for our hard-working farmer owners, finding temporary work assignments for our displaced employees, increasing production in other Darigold facilities to mitigate disruption to our supply chain to the extent we could, and resuming production as soon it was feasible.”

The facility in Caldwell first opened in 1930 and in 1990, it became part of Darigold's operations when the Dairymen’s Creamer Association merged with Darigold. The plant went through a multimillion-dollar expansion in 2018.  

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