A spokesman or Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service told FoodManufacture.co.uk that crews attended Gafoor Halal Products on Fletcher Road, Preston in the early hours of Monday morning when the premises were locked up with no staff onsite.
“A couple of fire engines attended the site at 12.15am on Monday morning, and our crews were there about an hour,” he said. “About 100 wooden pallets (from a stack of 800) were damaged, and we suspect arson; that’s the route we’re going down via a joint investigation with Police.”
When the initial emergency call was made, the spokesman said that trees were engulfed behing Gafoor’s multi-million pound facility.
“The factory had high stock levels at a time, which presented issues for firefighters in terms of the volume of items to protect.
“There were also concerns at one point that a lorry trailer might go up too due to high levels of radiant heat."
He added that an arson investigation had “reached no conclusion” as yet, with Police still studying CCTV evidence, while other measures could involve sniffer dogs to check for petrol or accelerants, interviews with eyewitnesses and enquiries as to whether anyone bore a grudge against the company.
Targetting ‘blue-chip’ clients
No-one from Gafoor Poultry Products was available to comment on the fire, but in a statement released today the firm affirmed its long-term commitment to win orders from “major blue-chip food manufacturers and supermarkets”.
This follows Gafoor’s recent successful application for British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Food Standard accreditation following a £4m investment to automate the Preston site's infrastructure over the past four years; the company is also planning imminent product launches for mainstream and halal markets.
Gafoor spokesperson Dave Broxton said: "Our strategy is to become one of the UK's leading providers of chicken products, not only to the halal market but also to the conventional chicken sector. Gaining BRC accreditation is the key to unlocking the doors to blue chip food manufacturers and supermarkets."
Founded in 1964 Gafoor, employs around 100 staff and processes over 450,000 birds a week for wholesale and retail customers throughout the UK and Europe, which include the NHS and HM Prison Services.