Community commitment will keep checks coming after chicken plant fire
Posted February 27
Updated February 28
Teachey, N.C. — A commitment to the community means that employees of the House of Raeford Farms Wallace Plant won't miss a paycheck despite a fire Saturday night that destroyed their workplace.
Owner Bob Johnson pledged to pay all employees "their normal wage until further notice" while making plans to rebuild.
House of Raeford has other plants in Rose Hill and Mocksville, and Teachey Mayor Charles C. Farrior Jr., who raises chickens for the company, said he expected some employees would find work there and those plants would expand capacity.
"It’s a good family that owns this company," Farrior said. "They’re very good folks. I know they not only look out for themselves, but they look out for the community and their employees."
One of those employees, Cindy Whetsell, compared the atmosphere to family.
"I got sick. Literally, I got sick," she said upon hearing about the fire.
On Monday, she came to see the damage for herself.
"It's bad," she said. "It's worse than I thought it was."
According to Fire Marshal Ricky Deaver, the fire appears to have started on the second floor, then the floor collapsed, and fire spread quickly through the ventilation system. Most of the interior of the 95,000-square-foot building is destroyed.
Farrior, too, was sick with worry. "It really just made my stomach get very, very tight. It’s a big industry for our area," he said.
"It can have a tremendous impact on what happens on Main Street."
At an auto parts store in Wallace, Greg Casteen could see the ripple effect. "It hurts everybody," he said. "There’s 675 employees, and to my knowledge, most of the majority of the 675 live in this area."
"I love it here," Whetsell said. "It's my job. Jobs are hard to find."
Johnson's pledge is keeping some of those worries at bay.
House of Raeford representatives were planning to spend the week calling each Wallace plant employee individually to work out a reassignment plan.
"The family fully intends to rebuild operations in the Wallace area as soon as possible," a company spokesman said Monday afternoon.