Reconstruction planned, cause of fire still unclear: May 23, 2022 2:45 p.m.

The city’s stench of soot also permeates the premises of the Bleichrud Volunteer Fire Brigade. Tool shed in the immediate vicinity of the factory, a blessing in disguise. This is where the comrades requested the press conference this afternoon …

Hell last night: 300 employees suddenly out of work (Photo: S.Dietzel)

Even this afternoon, twelve hours after most of the firefighting was completed, clouds of smoke still hung over the Panem bakery factory in Bleichrud.

The first alert went off yesterday evening at 7:17 p.m., the fire alarm system went off and the first emergency calls sounded quickly over the airwaves, Defense Commander Marcel Steinke, who commanded the operation yesterday, said. Actions were taken quickly, but the flames were faster. Once they got there, Steinck reported, black smoke came out of the building. “We first discovered the situation and went inside the building. But soon we had to stop the advance, the entire production area was already on fire and the roof was in danger of collapsing.”

So the fire was attacked from the outside and the focus was on cooling the flour-filled silos. Factory 1 from Panem Großbäckerei could not be saved despite all efforts. The steel and concrete roof construction collapsed little by little, burying the source of the fire. The fire was brought under control at 1:30 am.

This also has advantages and disadvantages, explains the firefighter. On the one hand, the construction ensured that the fires did not spread further through the factory, and on the other hand, it is now difficult to combat the firefighting work because hot spots from embers and fires are buried under the rubble. You still have a few days to do, Steink says, and the damage is “enormous.”

From left: Daniel Koons, District Fire Inspector, Thomas Goubert, Police Inspection Service, Marcel Steinck, Military Commander and Chief Operations Officer Mayor Frank Rostic and Dr.  Marcus Schirmer, General Manager Backstube Panem (Photo: agl)
From left: Daniel Koons, District Fire Inspector, Thomas Goubert, Police Inspection Service, Marcel Steinck, Military Commander and Chief Operations Officer Mayor Frank Rostic and Dr. Marcus Schirmer, General Manager Backstube Panem (Photo: agl)

The good news: None of the 59 employees who were at the plant yesterday were injured. “This is the most important thing. Everyone has acted correctly and the company can be left quickly,” says Dr. Marcus Shermer, Managing Director of Panem. It is a huge blow to the company and its employees.

With over 400 employees, “Backstube” is the largest employer in Bleicherode’s rural community. Now you will have to stop production first. At the newly built Plant 2, production has already started in the past few weeks, but it’s still “in its infancy” and not yet commissioned independently, Schirmer explains. Tomorrow we want to discuss how things will go with the staff. The Director-General added that about 300 employees will be directly affected and will be initially released and their salaries will continue to be paid. Damage is likely to be in the seven-digit range. “Our goal is to rebuild the plant as quickly as possible,” Shermer explained.

However, there is no reason to fear that the rolls will become more expensive tomorrow after the disaster in Bleichrud. Panem delivers throughout Germany and management is already in talks with competitors in order not to break the supply chain.

Management in Bleichrud City Council was also shocked and alarmed. “It is horrible to see the speed with which a fire can spread and destroy in a few hours what was built here years ago,” Mayor Frank Rosstick said. He was glad that nothing happened to anyone and that they acted wisely. Mayor Bleichrud said there had been no such situation since the train accident eleven years ago.

The seamless cooperation of the emergency services could have shown how much the responsible authorities have learned since then. In addition to the comrades from Bleichrud, there were a total of 230 emergency services on site. District Fire Inspector Daniel Koons deleted the usual list of those involved today, the list was simply too long. Help also came from Eichsfeld, the county of Göttingen and the Unstrut-Hainich region. This afternoon, all concerned extended their heartfelt thanks for their tireless efforts to the emergency services.

The cause of the fire is still unclear
The first development of smoke near the cooling systems was recorded, but whether the cause of the fire can be found is also here, said Thomas Goebert of the Nordhausen Police Inspection Service. The criminal police will take over the investigation, but due to the collapsed roof, it must initially be limited to an outside view. Managing Director Shermer said that a flour dust explosion could be ruled out as the cause of the disaster, such an accident would be conceivable in a mill and does not actually happen in large bakeries.
Angelo Glaschlagl / Olaf Scholz

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