McCain potato plant worker charged with arson

A worker at McCain Foods’ french fry processing plant in southwestern Manitoba goes to court next month charged with 25 counts of arson at the facility.

James Shea Stewart, 36, has been charged with arson and one count of mischief under $5,000 following a series of fires at the plant just south of Carberry, about 40 km east of Brandon.

According to a release from Carberry RCMP, they and the local fire department responded to a fire at the plant on Dec. 7, just before 10 p.m. After firefighters contained the initial fire they found three smaller fires in other areas of the plant.

The fires were “easily contained” and no one was injured, RCMP said.

On further investigation it was discovered 20 fires in the oil filter paper boxes on the potato processing lines, as well as a fire in the cooking oil room, had occurred between Nov. 10 and Dec. 7.

In the cooking oil room fire, RCMP said, an overflow pipe had been lit on fire and an oil valve left open for about 90 minutes, spilling about 2,900 gallons of cooking oil, worth almost $3,000.

Stewart, a Brandon resident who according to RCMP was an employee of McCain Foods at the time, was recently arrested and charged for all the fires at the plant. He was released from custody on a promise to appear in court in Brandon on Feb. 14.

The potato plant, which McCain bought from Nestle and Simplot in 2004, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has about 500 employees.

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