Dwayne MacQuarrie doesn’t usually get phone calls at 1:30 a.m.
So, when he received one of those early morning calls on Feb. 1, he wished it was better news.
“It was quite a shock, that’s for sure.”
The owner of MacQuarrie Meats was told his slaughterhouse, located in his uncle Myron’s barn in Winsloe, was burning down. In the end nobody was injured, but the barn was a total loss, leaving MacQuarrie uncertain about the future of his business.
“Not much you can do,” he said.
The Guardian received an email from a representative of the provincial fire marshal’s office on Feb. 19. It stated the cause of the fire was determined to have originated from a ventilation fan in the building – which was operating at the time of the fire.
“(The) FMO encourages all those using ventilation for livestock operations to ensure regular cleanings of their equipment,” the email reads.
Unfortunately, the fire forced MacQuarrie to lay off about half his staff. What was once the largest slaughterhouse on P.E.I. can no longer service farmers’ livestock, putting a strain on smaller slaughterhouses in the region, he said.
His business has been working out of a secondary shop in Winsloe, where they’re still able to process and cut meat. They’re employing the help of some nearby farmers to help slaughter livestock, but not to the same extent.
MacQuarrie's choosing not to share this shop’s location yet because it’s not set up for the public. For now, he’s focused on getting it better configured, and he hopes to add a retail area within the next few months, he said.
He’s still going over the numbers and weighing his options to see if building a new slaughterhouse would be worth the cost.
“I’ve been playing with some blueprints,” he said. “(But) it’s quite an investment to make.”
- The MacQuarrie Meats slaughterhouse burned down on Feb. 1.
- The North River fire department responded to an emergency call at about 12:45 a.m. According to past interviews with Myron MacQuarrie and fire chief Anson Grant, there were flames shooting out the ceiling and about 60 firefighters working in frigid temperatures.
- Some firefighters helped remove live cattle from the burning building into a nearby field. None were harmed, but four goats died.
- Once the fire was fully extinguished, half the barn’s frame still stood, but nothing inside was salvageable. All emergency crew were gone by 8 a.m. that morning.
There are many farmers who already miss their service, which is one of the main reasons he’d like to try and rebuild.
“They all depend on us,” he said. “They all want us to keep going.”
But, if it’s not worth the cost for the time being, he may have to make that tough call. MacQuarrie isn’t sure yet, however as each day passes he feels a little better about the situation, he said.
He's the fourth-generation owner of the family business, having operated it since 1988.
“It’s been around over 100 years.”
He expressed his gratitude to all farmers and customers who have stuck with his business during this transition, as well as to the provincial government for its support.