Recently Hawke’s Bay’s regional newspaper, the Hawke’s Bay Today marked the 50th anniversary of the Wattie’s Fire.
The fire, that destroyed large parts of the factory and stock, happened mid-afternoon February 19th, 1962.
An eyewitness from Hastings, Ron Goodall recounted the remarkable spirit of Wattie’s employees and Sir James Wattie following the fire, with employees working through the night to help fire-fighters with the clean-up.
Fortunately the fire spared the boiler room and with hard work, the plant was up and running just 50 hours after the fire to meet the seasonal demands.
To mark the anniversary, a pallet of product was donated to Salvation Army in Hastings, a charity nominated by the Hastings Fire Brigade.
Michael Gibson said, “Following those dark days and the ashes of fire, Wattie’s in Hasting has continued to grow its product range and volumes, and today, 50 years on, we are investing in the transfer of production from Australia for products like tomato sauce, ketchup, ready meals and beetroot.”
The fire was a defining event for Wattie’s as a company and brand and it is well-etched in history. It brought out the passion and commitment from staff members, the strength of community support and the incredible dynamism and leadership of our founder James Wattie.
It was a textbook example of disaster recovery, where a dedicated team ensured Wattie’s could continue to take crops from growers at a critical time of the season.