Residents in Älvsbyn west of Luleå in northern Sweden were told to stay indoors and close doors, windows and ventilation due to a risk of poisonous gas rising from the burned-out factory.
“There's a cooling system (in the factory) that runs on ammonia gas, it's a poisonous gas which is harmful to breathe,” Daniel Granberg, fire and rescue control room officer, told the TT news agency.
Photo: Räddningstjänsten Piteå-Älvsbyn/TT
Firefighters were called to the blaze at the Polarbröd factory at around 11.30pm on Sunday and spent the night fighting the flames.
The flames had more or less been extinguished by Monday morning and no one was injured, but the factory was completely destroyed in the inferno.
Polarbröd is one of Sweden's most well-known brands of bread. Photo: Susanne Lindholm/TT
The fire is said to have started on a conveyor belt, after a lump of bread caught fire in an oven.
“We tried to put it out by hand but it was impossible. Eventually it wasn't possible to stay, so all we could do was go outside and wait for the fire services,” an employee told the NSD newspaper.
All roads to Älvsbyn were closed on Monday morning to all but emergency transports, and trains between Jörn and Boden were halted. Schools were closed, and the municipality called to a crisis meeting.
Smoke was still rising from the factory on Monday. Photo: Jens Ökvist/TT
Many people in Älvsbyn have links to the factory – either they're working there themselves or they know someone who does.
Not only is Polarbröd the largest private employer in Älvsbyn and had recently invested 150 million kronor in a new production line, which had been set to open on Monday, it is Sweden's third-biggest bread producer and one of its most well-known brands.
It was founded in 1971 as a small family-owned bakery, and today employs 331 people.
Based in Älvsbyn, Bredbyn and Umeå, it bakes almost 41,000 tonnes of bread every year..