(AP) — The stubborn fire that gutted part of a sprawling meatpacking plant in suburban Milwaukee is finally out. The declaration came Wednesday afternoon as the estimate of damage from the two-and-a-half-day fire soared to $50 million or more.

Despite that, company officials offered hope that portions of the Patrick Cudahy plant will be rebuilt, saving one of the area's major employers.

"I'm delighted at the news that they are committed to the city of Cudahy and rebuilding their operations," Cudahy Mayor Ryan McCue said. "We're happy that they're anticipating getting their employees back to work.

"This could be seen as an opportunity," McCue added. "Maybe in two or three years down the road, they'll have more employees here" than before the fire. McCue said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Fire officials said it started Sunday night in one of the plant's oldest buildings, in a space below the roof but above the fourth floor and the building's sprinkler system. That allowed the fire to burn in areas inaccessible to firefighters and the millions of gallons of water poured on the blaze until the roof and floors collapsed.

Source: Associated Press