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Cudahy mayor furious that military flare started meat plant fire

The mayor of Cudahy says he's furious that someone started the fire that ravaged the Patrick Cudahy meat plant, even if it was an accident.

Officials said Tuesday that a military flare exploded before landing on the plant's roof July 5.

It was fired east of the plant. And it started a fire that took three days to put out, caused well over $50 million in damage, put 1,800 people out of work for at least a week, and threatened an ammonia tank, forcing residents to be evacuated for 13 hours.

Mayor Ryan McCue said he hoped the person responsible would do the right thing and come forward.

Fire Chief Dan Mayer said it appeared to be carelessness. And he says the blaze is a perfect example of why most fireworks are illegal.

There's a $16,000 reward for information leading to those responsible.

The money was put up by the local Crime Stoppers program, the Wisconsin Arson Insurance Council and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Cudahy Police are in charge of the investigation. ATF and the state Justice Department are also involved.

Officials would not say much about the flare itself.

Twenty-seven Milwaukee area fire departments helped put out the blaze, which destroyed about a quarter of the 1 million square foot Patrick Cudahy plant. One firefighter suffered a back injury.

About 300 people are back at work. The rest are due to return within a couple weeks.