ALMONT TOWNSHIP (WWJ) - Fire raced through a giant deer processing plant in Lapeer County -- the latest in a string of tragedies for the plant's owner.
The fire broke out just before 12 a.m. Friday and quickly spread through the Country Smoke House on Van Dyke in Almont Township. Flames could be seen across M-53 when the fire started at the back of the facility, which employs up to 50 people.
More than 40 volunteer firefighters from six area departments responded to the scene and in just over two hours, the fire was extinguished.
"Thirty years of our lives is tied up in this business," said owner Steve Francis, getting emotional. "It's tough, real tough."
Francis said he plans to rebuild, but the timing of the fire couldn't be worse.
"There's a lot going through my mind," he said. "Last week, Tuesday, I had a heart attack. Come home Friday, my dad got buried on Friday, or he died Friday and we just buried him. So we got the call, we were up north burying his body and we just came back and this is what we got. So it's like I got kicked in the teeth three times this week."
Adding to that, the Smoke House is Michigan's largest deer processing facility. The deer hunting season has just begun and now, hunters will need to find a new location to process their deer.
"The County Smoke House is a monument for our area. It draws people from all over the state," said Almont Fire Chief Don Smith. "You can't hardly go anywhere and mention Almont where they don't mention the Smoke House."
No injuries were reported in the fire. A cause has yet to be determined, but officials say the fire doesn't appear to be suspicious.
An investigation is ongoing.