— Cheese production was temporarily suspended after a fire in the packaging
room at Emmi Roth early Wednesday, Nov. 13, left smoke damage but injured no
Firefighters responded just before 2 a.m. to the back of the cheese plant at 657 2nd St., located just off Wisconsin 69.
The fire started in the conveyor belt of a $70,000 machine that was being repaired, according to Monroe Fire Chief Dan Smits.
No one was near the machine when the fire started.
"They had one person that had been working on the machine, and he walked away to get some tools," Smits said. "He came back into the room and discovered the fire."
Fire damage was limited to the machine, but substantial black smoke that rolled off the fire caused smoke damage in the building, according to Smits. Firefighters stayed on scene two and a half hours.
Heather Engwall, vice president of marketing for Emmi Roth, said the electrical fire originated in the machine part being repaired but the exact cause as of Wednesday afternoon was still under investigation.
All Emmi Roth employees on-site at the time of the fire were evacuated. The company announced it was suspending all cheese production until further notice as a safety precaution.
"We will have to replace some actual equipment and parts. The hope is we'll be back in production as soon as possible," Engwall said. Nearly 100 people work at the plant. It was not in production at the time of the fire.
"For the middle of the night, it was contained very quickly," she said. "The firefighters did an amazing job."
Emmi Roth was working with local officials and a restoration company to clean the smoke damage and taking measures to ensure all cheese inventory and cheesemaking areas were secured and free from damage, according to Engwall.
In a statement, Emmi Roth president and managing director Tim Omer praised employees and Monroe firefighters for reacting with urgency and thanked the community for its care and concern. The company is "proud to be in a tight-knit community like Monroe," he said.
The Alp & Dell Cheese Shop connected to the Emmi Roth facility was not impacted by the fire and remains open.