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Federal ATF takes over investigation of fruit company fire

A national response team of certified fire investigators is at the scene of the Oct. 18 fire at a fruit packing facility in the Columbia River Gorge.
Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on October 23, 2017 3:56PM

Members of the ATF’s National Response Team work their way through rubble at the Underwood Fruit and Warehouse Co. in Bingen, Wash., on Oct. 22. A fire four days earlier destroyed a pear packing, storage and shipping building at the company. ATF was called in due to the size and complexity of the fire. A cause and damage estimate are not yet available.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Members of the ATF’s National Response Team work their way through rubble at the Underwood Fruit and Warehouse Co. in Bingen, Wash., on Oct. 22. A fire four days earlier destroyed a pear packing, storage and shipping building at the company. ATF was called in due to the size and complexity of the fire. A cause and damage estimate are not yet available.

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The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has taken over investigation of the Oct. 18 fire that destroyed a pear packing and shipping building at Underwood Fruit and Warehouse Co. in Bingen, Wash.

ATF spokesman Jason Chudy of the bureau’s Seattle field office said a national response team of a couple dozen fire investigators is involved. Chudy said the work is not a criminal investigation at this point, but the Bingen Fire Department, a volunteer department, requested help due to the size and complexity of the fire.

“It was much larger than Bingen was able to do on their own,” Chudy said. “It was a very large fire, there was a lot of equipment (involved) and it consumed the entire facility.”

Chudy did not know the exact square footage of the destroyed building. A cause and damage estimate have not yet been released.

The fire was reported about 5:45 a.m. on Oct. 18. A large pear packing room, packed fruit storage space and shipping facilities were destroyed, said Don Gibson, president of Mount Adams Orchard Corp. in Yakima, Wash., and manager of Underwood Fruit and Warehouse LLC. The packing house is part of Mount Adams Orchard.

The packing company was at peak inventory with picked fruit, but Gibson said last week the company is insured and growers’ losses will be covered.

Underwood primarily packs pears, apples and cherries for growers in the Columbia River Gorge of Washington and Oregon. The company is 100 years old this year.

Eleven Klickitat County fire departments responded to the fire, along with a BNSF Railway fire train and personnel from the Hood River Fire Department, Skamania Fire Department and Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue.



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