The Perdue Farms poultry plant in Accomac, Virginia, was evacuated on July 17, after two chemical tanks caught fire.

The incident occurred around 3:45 p.m.

One of the tanks contained paracetic acid and the other contained sodium chloride. However, because of the explosive nature of the chemicals when combined with water, and their proximity to a fuel tank, firefighters did not extinguish the flames and instead waited for them to burn themselves out, Accomack County Board of Supervisors Chairman Donald L. Hart Jr. told Delmarvanow.com. Several fire departments responded. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

"Out of concern for our associates safety, we sent them home," Perdue Farms spokeswoman Danielle Tergis said in an email. "There were no injuries."

The plant has since returned to operation, and the incident's impact to Perdue's customers was "extremely minimal," Tergis added.

Earlier fires

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In January, firefighters responded to a fire to a building under demolition at the Valley Proteins facility on the grounds of the Perdue plant in Accomack County. Another fire was reported at the Valley Proteins facility in November 2017.

Hart said as of that afternoon, no one was injured.

Safety record at Perdue plant

The Perdue Farms plant has in recent years been recognized for its commitment to worker safety. The staff at the Accomac facility was honored with the Joint Industry & Health Council’s Award of Distinction at the 2018 National Safety Conference for the Poultry Industry. On March 25, 2017, the plant personnel completed 3 million production hours without experiencing an Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable lost-time case.

Perdue Farms, according to the WATTAgNet Top Poultry Companies Database, is the fourth largest broiler company in the United States, having processed 64.42 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken on a weekly basis in 2018. Perdue also ranks as the seventh largest turkey company in the country, having slaughtered 291 million pounds of live turkeys in 2018.

The company, headquartered in Salisbury, Maryland, is also involved in pork production.