EDMONTON -- A fire that started late Sunday night in Ponoka has destroyed a slaughterhouse that was part of a local specialty meat business. 

Ponoka County Regional Fire Services says it received reports of flames at 8:55 p.m. on Sunday night. 

Crews attended to find the building engulfed by smoke and flames. 

"It had been going for some time. It was quite a big fire by the time we got on scene," said Fire Chief Dennis Jones with PCRFS. 

Jones said the flames weren't completely out until mid-afternoon on Monday with fuel and animal fat keeping the fire going. 

"In such a large area with lots of nice air space for the fire to grow, you’ve got quite a significant hydrocarbon fire going."

He said firefighters had to dodge exploding .22-calibre shells that started going off. 

Ponoka Slaughterhouse Fire

The building was part of the Family Meats business, which had operated in Ponoka since 2006. 

Jones said the company's owner sold the business recently but stayed on to work as a manager and helped crews navigate the building overnight as they put out stubborn hotspots. 

"It was pretty heartbreaking for them to see what happened." 

Jones said the fire department will work with the building's insurer in a joint investigation to determine the cause of the fire. 

The bulding was burned beyond repair but Jones says all animals in the complex were saved.