ORONDO, Wash. — Fire destroyed the office and packed apple storage area of a small apple company in Orondo late Sunday.
The company, Pine Canyon Growers LLC, hopes to be back in production in a matter of weeks, Andy Feil, co-owner, said the next morning.
Other news sources reported fire officials estimated the loss at $12 million, but Feil said he doesn’t know how that estimate was arrived at and had no idea of the dollar loss.
The fire was reported about 5:20 p.m. Nov. 25 and firefighters arrived to find the whole back side of the building on fire, said Capt. Doug Dresher of Douglas County Fire Dist. No. 4.
“It had probably been smoldering for hours because smoke was coming out both ends of the building. The fire breeched the ceiling and took off pretty good,” Dresher said.
A portion of the roof collapsed, making the fire noticeable to a passerby who reported it. A second alarm was called as flames were estimated at 50 feet above the roof.
Three ladder trucks, two other engines and about 40 firefighters were engaged at the peak of the battle and nearby residents were advised to shelter in place if they smelled ammonia, Dresher said.
Ammonia refrigerant was present but burned off in the fire, he said. Before 10:30 p.m., fire officials decided to let the fire burn out because sawdust-insulated walls were too hard to extinguish and safety was a factor, Dresher said.
Another firefighter estimated the destroyed building at more than 10,000 square feet. Part of it appeared to be the oldest part of the facility. The packing plant, adjoining cold storage and a separate new Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage all appeared unscathed.
A covered conveyor bridge connected the packing plant to the packed storage building. It is possible the packing plant has smoke damage, Feil said.
Portable facilities can be brought in for offices and packed fruit can be held in the CA building for shipping, he said.
Fire officials do not know how the fire started and asked the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate, Desher said. Todd Smith, an ATF investigator from Spokane, arrived shortly before noon Monday and began his work.
Five partners started Pine Canyon Growers in 2016, buying the plant and 15 acres from Chelan Fruit Cooperative for $2.27 million. Chelan Fruit had bought the facility from Orondo Fruit Co. when that company dissolved in 2012.
Pine Canyon packs mostly its own apples but some from other growers, Feil said. He would not disclose annual volume and said the company packs no pears or cherries. The company sells most of its fruit through Columbia Marketing International in Wenatchee.