A catastrophic fire engulfed acclaimed Virginia ham producer S. Wallace Edwards & Sons’ smokehouse yesterday, forcing the company to close for what it says is an “undetermined amount of time.” No injuries were reported as a result of the fire, which started during the workers’ lunch break at 12:30 p.m., around which time the company’s head of accounting Janda Mueller says she saw smoke billowing out of the building. The blaze reportedly continued into the evening. As of now, the cause of the fire is still unknown.
It’s too soon to know the long-term effects of the disaster, but the immediate aftermath is bleak: The 95-year-old, family-run business is one of the largest employers in Surry County, Virginia, and has developed a cult following with chefs around the country, including Andrew Zimmern and David Chang, both of whom took to Twitter to express condolences, along with organizations like the Southern Foodways Alliance. This would be a devastating setback any time of year, but the timing couldn’t be worse as the company was in the thick of curing season and, as a result, has no doubt lost a significant portion of its ham and bacon.