PESHASTIN, Wash. — Two days after a fire broke out in a fruit warehouse in this community 19 miles northwest of Wenatchee, a pall of smoke lingered over the town and people wore respiratory masks or scarves outside.
Portions of a blackened roof hung above a corner of rubble still burning while icicles clung to unburned roofing just a few feet away.
The fire at Blue Bird Inc., a fruit cooperative, was reported at 7:06 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters arrived to find the west end of a 35,000-square-foot warehouse on fire. Through the night, firefighters from four fire districts fought the blaze in single-digit temperatures. They lost the warehouse but saved adjoining warehouses and the packing plant containing two pear and one apple packing line.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more from the firefighters. We’re truly grateful for their efforts through the night and into the next day,” said Ron Gonsalves, Blue Bird general manager.
The threat to other buildings continued into Monday.
“There’s only 80 feet between the building that was on fire and our main packing building. It was an extreme effort. Firefighters saved the whole campus,” Gonsalves said.
There were no injuries. The cause is under investigation. Gonsalves said there’s no indication of anything suspicious or of mechanical failure.
The warehouse that burned was built in 1982 and contained about 300,000, 44-pound box equivalents of packed d’Anjou pears valued at about $8 million, Gonsalves said.
The average asking price of premium d’ Anjou pears in Wenatchee and Yakima was $17 to $25 per box, depending on size, on March 4, according to USDA.
The fruit was in 10 of 12 controlled-atmosphere storage rooms and was late-term, meaning it was scheduled for sales from early April to July. It was about one-third of Blue Bird’s total d’Anjou crop, Gonsalves said.
The cooperative packs just under 3 million boxes of pears and apples and 1 million, 20-pound boxes of cherries annually, he said.
There was smoke and water damage to apples and pears in an adjoining warehouse, he said.
The building and fruit were fully insured so growers will be made whole, Gonsalves said. It will be rebuilt in time for harvest starting in August, he said. The cooperative has 205 grower-members.
Packing has been disrupted for a few days but will resume soon, he said.
A June 28, 2015, wildfire, driven by wind into Wenatchee, destroyed 110,000-square-feet of Blue Bird facilities there containing three cherry packing lines and an organic apple line. The $53 million loss was fully covered by insurance with no expense to grower-members, Gonsalves said. The facility was rebuilt the next year.
The cooperative, and its Washington Cherry Growers division, have packing and storage facilities in Wenatchee and Peshastin.
It also owns fruit storage warehouses in Tonasket and George. The fruit is sold through Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima.