Inspectors on scene at Hirsch’s; trickle effects of blaze being felt

While the landmark Hirsch’s Meats market on Route 322 in Kossuth remains open for business, meat production is at a halt after a fire last week reduced the nearby Hirsch slaughterhouse to rubble.

Insurance inspectors were on the scene Monday inspecting what remained of the building, which caught fire at about 1:45 a.m. Thursday and continued to smolder throughout the day. An inspector from Champion Claims said the cause remains unknown.

Knox fire chief Russ Cataldo said Thursday that he called for a state police fire marshal to investigate the cause of the blaze.

When asked on Monday, state police at the Ridgway barracks said they couldn’t give any update on the fire marshal investigation.

Meanwhile, Hirsch’s owner David Hirsch, who was out with the inspectors Monday, said it’s too soon to tell what’s going to happen next with the business. Hirsch said he had no plans to retire but now may have to consider that option.

The timing of the fire deals a particularly heavy blow to the business as the Clarion County Fair is underway and the Venango County Fair is starting in less than two weeks. Hirsch’s typically handles butchering for the livestock auctions at both fairs.

The building was also the site of a USDA plant that served the area’s grocery stores and farms, such as Gruber Farm in Shippenville.

Gruber Farm owner John Gruber said Monday he is looking for a new processor for his pigs after being in business with Hirsch’s for the last five years.

“The nearest processor that can help us is probably about at least an hour away,” Gruber said. “We’re in a gray area with what we’re going to do, but we’re not going out of business.”

While Gruber has experienced a setback on some of his meat processing, he has had enough inventory to keep sales steady.

The real problem, he said, is going to be the trickle down effect on the area’s grocery stores.

“It’s going to have an impact on the whole tri-county area, because that was a USDA plant,” Gruber said. “There was stuff going through there the average person never saw.”

No people or animals were injured in the incident, and the market building wasn’t damaged.