South SF salami plant fire extinguished

July 23, 2009 5:45:39 PM PDT
A major fire in South San Francisco has destroyed part of a well-known Bay Area food institution. The slicing and packaging plant owned by Columbus Salame went up in flames Thursday morning.

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The fire began at the plant on Cabot Road around 2 a.m. About 15 employees, all part of a cleanup crew, were inside at the time. All of them managed to get out safely.

"The majority of the seat of the fire is actually toward the rear of the building and it basically involved the entire building; I believe it's where their cutting process is," South San Francisco Fire Marshall Luis DaSilva said.

Columbus Salame has been doing business in the bay area for nearly a century, making a product that so many recognize.

Margaret Guerrero works across the street from the plant.

"It's just sad because I see a lot of people work there; there's a lot of groups of people I see in the morning and they have a night shift, a small one," Guerrero said.

Santos Martinez worked the night shift at the plant.

"I got nervous and very worried, I don't know what will happen in the future," Martinez said.

The company will begin transferring employees to one of their other plants. Some could end up in Hayward or at another plant in South San Francisco where they cook and cure salami and other deli meats.

"We are going to continue to pay all of our employees this week and next week while we access the final conclusion as to what happen to employees," Columbus Salame CEO Ralph Denisco said. "It's possible (some employees could be laid off), but we don't expect a large number."

The company began in 1917 in San Francisco's North Beach Ddistrict.

While the company has lost one of its plants, consumers should continue to find their sliced products in supermarkets. Columbus will use other slicing and packaging facilities, including those of their competition until they are once again operational.

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