Sanger community looking forward after fire destroys Initiative Foods building

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Employees and company leaders of Initiative Foods say it will be hard but they're optimistic, saying they will rebuild. (KFSN)

Employees and company leaders at Initiative Foods are optimistic, saying they will rebuild after a massive fire tore through the company's Sanger plant.

It happened early Sunday morning, affecting the factory and warehouse where they produce organic baby food.

"Heartbreaking to say the least," worker Jennifer Whittington said. "As a single mom, this place helped me get a good life together for my kids."

Whittington is one of many emotional employees who referred to coworkers as family. That's what made this fire so hard to deal with. Because now, the future is unclear and most are without a job.

"I know the state offers them money, but I'd sure like to be in a position to help them out," company president John Ypma said. "They've been great. They're a part of our family."

Ypma set the tone this morning, speaking to the entire staff, with his heart, on his sleeve.

"We're going to have to let our hearts break," he told the crowd. "We're going to have to let that past go and accept that inevitable changes are in front of us."

Words that are helping many get through this right now.

"Like John said, we can come back stronger, we'll rebuild it," employee Jessica Norng said. "Come back stronger. Hope and faith. Just keep that in our heart and mind. That's all we can do right now."

"You know what we will. We'll be back we'll rebuild. John is one of the strongest men I've ever known, and his strength helps all of us."

We're told Initiative Foods may be able to get some type of production up and running in about six months, but that doesn't guarantee everyone getting their jobs back.

"I don't know about everyone," Ypma said. "I'm not going to promise that, it's too early. But boy if I could do that, I would do it."

For his Initiative Foods family, including one couple. They met here and are now expecting twins.

"It's tough and they're about a month and a half away from having their twins and so yeah, there's a lot of questions now," worker Scott Elliott said.

"It's hard," Norng said. "But like I said, they are strong and we'll get through it, we'll get through it."

The company says it's really trying to focus on the displaced employees.

There's a team working on a number of projects to get donations through food drives, gift bags, even a GoFundMe page has been set up to help.

As far as the fire itself, the cause is still unknown.

And right now, the fire chief says it doesn't look like arson, but they are still investigating.
Related Topics:
newsbuilding firefresno countycommunitySanger
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