A massive fire that started Saturday just before midnight destroyed a decades-old family business in Olympia, Johnson's Smokehouse and Sausage. It burned most of the company to the ground within hours.
The family’s home is right next to the business and the Johnsons were sleeping when the fire broke out. They woke up to their dog barking, and the roar of fire trucks and fire.
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“Flames were probably 35, 40 feet above it,” said Ron Johnson, who started the business with his wife Sue, 36 years ago.
It’s a family business they slowly expanded over the decades. They started with just meat cutting and wrapping in a log cabin.
“I built this from scratch. I cut those logs off the property, I put those logs up,” Johnson said.
It grew to a business, now run by their son and daughter, that became an Olympia staple. They sold smoked sausage, jerky, a trail mix, among other products, to about a half dozen northwest states.
“When it hit the log cabin, and I saw fire coming out the top of that - that was the most -- that hurt,” Johnson said, his voice breaking.
The company's equipment, smokers, and inventory are almost all burned to rubble.
“It was so hot and so fast it uh, it just went,” Johnson said. “The fire department, they told me they put 200,000 gallons of water on it to try and stop it but it just was too hot,” he said.
He said the estimated damage is in the millions.
But already, Johnson said their customers are overwhelming them with support.
“Our Facebook is just blowing up. It's unbelievable the love people have. That we touched,” Johnson said. “I love everybody, thank you very much. My wife and my family,” he said, tearing up.
They say despite the devastation, people are giving them hope.
“We’re going to come back fighting. We're fighters, Johnsons. We started from nothing and we can start right back over again,” he said.
The fire department has not ruled a cause, but Johnson said the fire is not suspicious and started in an area where they were working on new construction.
Johnson said one way to support them now, is by shopping their trail mix packs sold at a variety of stores – one of the products where there is still inventory.
“That’s the stuff they rant and rave about,” he said. “That’s going to save my life it really is.”
The company also has a booth at the Olympia Farmer’s Market but they will not be operating there so Johnson’s Smokehouse and Sausage can rebuild.
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