A Wayne County sausage factory that has been in business for nearly 70 years was destroyed by fire on Monday.
About 50 firefighters from more than 10 departments battled the blaze at Ballard’s Farm in Wayne from around 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday.
Wayne County Fire Department Fire Chief Jerry Maynard said the cause was still unknown on Monday night, but the fire, which had been extinguished by around 7 p.m., is believed to have started in a central office.
The approximately 20 employees all made it out safely, Maynard said.
The company, located on Right Fork Wilson Creek Road, sells sausage, salads, lunch meat, bacon, pepperoni and corn dogs, according to its website.
Wayne residents were grieving along with factory employees Monday.
Chasity Berry, owner of Giovanni’s Pizza of Wayne, said customers were talking about the blaze while watching fire trucks go by.
“They’re just sad,” she said. “It’s been kind of rough. I feel really bad for them.”
She said the employees at the factory were regular customers for the pizza place.
“We really liked them,” she said. “They were good customers.”
Since opening in 1946, the business developed a long list of loyal customers.
Kelly Zipperian, store manager of the Save-A-Lot in Wayne, said meats and salads from Ballard’s are big-sellers.
“I’d say roughly with every customer, there is a Ballard item, whether it be bacon or hot dogs or salads,” she said. “There’s probably at least one or two items of Ballard in every customer’s purchase.”
Ballard’s Farm has been in the same family for three generations, since Carlos R. Ballard, Sr. opened the company in 1946, according to the website.
His son, Carlos R. Ballard, Jr. joined the family business in 1958.
David Ballard serves as president and CEO today.
The Gazette was unable to reach company officials for comment Monday.
Martha Watts, the owner of Wayne’s Diner, said the business had grown to be a pillar in the Wayne County community.
“They would give large quantities of food to the food banks to help out the people in need,” she said. “We’re all hoping they’re able to get back on their feet and rebuild.”
She brought meals to the fire scene from her business, located about four miles away.
“It was crazy,” she said. “It was burning to the ground.”
Mark Lambert, spokesman for the state fire marshal’s office, said it could take a few days to pinpoint a cause, if a cause is even determined.
“The longer a structure burns, very often, the harder it becomes to figure out a definitive cause,” he said.
He said a significant amount of damage can make it harder to determine a fire’s cause with any reasonable degree of scientific certainty.
Reach Erin Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5163 or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.