Employees on paid leave after massive fire


"They're our family too, and that's how they will be treated," CEO says

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — It was a difficult day for the employees of United Industries after a building went up in flames.

It was especially devastating for the family-owned business that’s been in Bentonville since 1980.

Mark Ferm, the President and CEO of the company, says around 90 employees were working the first shift when the fire broke out.

They all made it out safely.

The company has around 140 employees total.

“My father started the company in 1980, so we’ve made it 39 years without this happening,” Ferm said.

The fire was seen from miles away, but employees waited patiently for the smoke to clear.

The facility will not be up and running for at least a few days, or worst case scenario up to six weeks, Ferm says.

The fire sparked outside the building in the very back of the lot where a styrofoam product was stored, before spreading inside.

“It’s flammable, all plastics are very flammable, it puts off a tremendous amount of black smoke. As you can see today, it looked a lot worse than probably what it was,” he said.

All employees followed proper emergency drills, as trained.

Ferm praised first responders who worked diligently all afternoon, and called it a blessing that no one was hurt.

Despite the fire putting his employees out of work for the foreseeable future, they will still get paychecks.

“Myself and my family we personally know a bunch of them…they’re our family too, and that’s how they will be treated, ” Ferm said.

The cost of the damage is not yet known.

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