Kraft fire

A Pocatello Fire Department fire truck drives to the old Kraft plant, which is now the Idaho Rail Shop. A major portion of the plant was destroyed by a fire Saturday night.

    POCATELLO — Investigators with the Pocatello Fire Department cannot determine the cause of a fire that gutted a major portion of the former Kraft Foods plant on North Kraft Road.

    Pocatello Fire Chief David Gates said the level of destruction caused by the fire made it impossible to locate the origin of the blaze.

    Gates said firefighting efforts were also hampered by a lack of water in the area located just off the North Main extension. Fire crews ran more than 1,000 feet of hose to get water to the burning building.

    Rubble still smoldered at the plant Monday. The defunct Kraft plant is currently the site of the Idaho Rail Shop, owned and operated by LeRoy Bartu.

    Bartu, who bought the plant in 1997, said while a portion of the building was destroyed, the rail shop where equipment and supplies were housed sustained no damage during the fire, which was reported at about 6 p.m. Saturday by a passing motorist.

    The Idaho Rail Shop repairs railcars for Union Pacific and a number of private contractors. Bartu said none of the cars, valued at about $250,000 each, were damaged in the blaze.

    “The fire department did an outstanding job keeping the fire out of that building,” Bartu said. “It could have been a lot bigger loss.”

    Bartu said he expects to be back in business as soon as Tuesday.

    “As soon as we get the word from the insurance company, we’re ready to go,” Bartu said.

    Battalion Chief Greg Vickers  of the Pocatello Fire Department said investigators cleared the scene Monday and turned the building back over to the owners.

    Four fire engines, two aerial trucks and about 35 firefighters were on the scene of the fire Saturday. A third aerial truck and a water tender from Chubbuck also responded.

    Vickers said Bartu told them his equipment was located in a building adjacent and attached to the main plant, and fire crews focused their efforts on keeping the fire from spreading to that wing of the plant.

    The plant was fully engulfed in flames when crews arrived on the scene, but Vickers said the business owners managed to remove files and office equipment from the building.

    The cold and rain Saturday night also complicated firefighting efforts.

    “We rotated the fire crews back to the station to try to keep them warm,” Vickers said.

Randy Larsen with the Bannock County Assessor’s Office said the plant was built in 1915 and encompasses 46,517 square-feet, including storage and distribution warehouses, an equipment shop and office.