A fire early Wednesday morning heavily damaged the Underwood Fruit and Warehouse Co. on the west end of Bingen, Wash., across the Columbia River from Hood River, Ore.
Details were scarce Wednesday, but video shot from a news helicopter and shown on Portland television station KOIN showed towering flames and columns of heavy smoke.
A large pear packing room, packed fruit storage space and shipping facilities were destroyed, said Don Gibson, president of Mount Adams Orchard Corp. and manager of Underwood Fruit and Warehouse LLC. The packing house is part of Mount Adams Orchard.
Gibson didn’t have a dollar estimate of the damage or the square footage that was lost in the fire, but said all of it will have to be rebuilt.
Gibson said the cause of the fire is under investigation. The fire broke out when the packing company is at peak inventory with picked fruit, he said. Gibson said the company is insured and growers’ losses will be covered. He said inventory details aren’t available yet.
Gibson said he is headquartered at Mount Adams Orchard in Yakima, Wash., but travels to packing house in Bingen a couple of days each week. One of his managers called him Wednesday morning with news of the fire, he said.
Klickitat County Emergency Management said the fire was reported at 5:45 a.m. Eleven Klickitat County fire departments responded, along with personnel from the BNSF Railway fire train, Hood River Fire Department, Skamania Fire Department and Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue, according to a statement on the emergency department’s website.
Underwood Fruit and Warehouse is a 100-year-old packing and shipping facility for 55 apple, pear and cherry growers in the Columbia River Gorge, according to the company’s website.
The fire apparently knocked out electrical power in parts of Bingen and neighboring White Salmon. As of mid-day Wednesday, officials said the fire had been isolated to the building in which it started. No hazardous material was released and no evacuation orders were issued, the emergency department said on its website. The department did not provide information about a possible cause of the fire.
The White Salmon Valley School District placed its buses on what it termed “road restriction routes” Wednesday morning. It closed one bus stop and directed children who usually catch the bus there to go to another stop “due to fire at Underwood Fruit,” the district said on its website.