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Fire damages AMPI plant in Portage
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Fire damages AMPI plant in Portage

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Officials from Associated Milk Producers Inc. are evaluating how a fire Friday night at its Portage plant will affect operations in the coming days.

Plant Manager Don Weideman said from the scene that there was little that he could say until he talked to officials from the AMPI corporate headquarters in New Ulm, Minn.

"It's one of life's tragedies," he said, "but thank God everybody got out."

Firefighters from numerous surrounding communities -- including Pardeeville, Wyocena and Arlington and Wisconsin Dells -- remained on the scene late Friday night.

Roger Davis, plant supervisor, said everyone who was in the building escaped unharmed.

“Everyone was evacuated as soon as they saw the fire,” he said.

Sarah Schmidt, communications director for the corporation, said it appeared that the fire was confined to a packaging area on the first floor, and that an employee summoned firefighters by calling 911 about 8 p.m.

"We are anxious to know more," she said.

According to Daily Register archives, the plant employed between 400 and 415 people when plans to layoff 90 workers were announced in October, Schmidt said.

AMPI is a cooperative, whose members are about 2,600 dairy farmers in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

In addition to the Portage plant, AMPI also has plants in the Wisconsin communities of Blair and Jim Falls; the Iowa communities of Arlington and Sanborn; the South Dakota communities of Freeman and Hoven; and the Minnesota communities of Paynesville, Rochester and New Ulm. In addition, AMPI has a milk receiving and field service location in Prairie du Chien.

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