Fire destroys fruit packing shed in Wenatchee

Twisted rubble remains of Phillippi Fruit Co. Inc.'s packing shed, Wenatchee, Wash., the morning of March 27 following a March 24 fire. Fruit storage shed in background was saved.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Fire destroyed a packing shed of one of the smaller fruit packers in the Wenatchee area the evening of March 24.

Phillippi Fruit Co. Inc. lost its apple packing line at 1921 Fifth St. in Wenatchee. It has a cherry packing facility about eight miles away at Baker Flats north of East Wenatchee.

The approximate 12,500-square-foot building was unoccupied when fire was reported at 8:25 p.m., said Mike Burnett, chief of Chelan County Fire District No. 1.

The fire was not discovered early on and had spread enough that firefighters were unable to pursue an interior attack upon arrival but saved an adjacent fruit storage shed just five feet away and stacks of empty apple bins, Burnett said.

About 50 firefighters from seven fire departments as far away as Lake Chelan, 40 miles to the north, responded to the two-alarm fire and three aerial ladder trucks were used, he said. There was no immediate threat to nearby homes and the fire was under control in two-and-a-half hours, he said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but there is nothing suspicious, Burnett said.

“It won’t be easy to determine because of the extent of damage,” he said.

He had no estimate of dollar loss.

Chris Phillippi, co-owner, released a statement crediting firefighters for saving the storage shed, shop, distillery, cidery and office.

“We had already concluded our apple packing season so the facility was only in limited operation. Nobody was working in the facility at the time of the fire,” Phillippi said in the statement.

The company is considering options for packing this fall’s apple crop but most likely will not rebuild at Fifth Street, he said. It’s more likely the apple packing will be moved to one of the company’s two other locations, he said.

“Much has changed since our facility was built on Fifth Street in 1960. At the time, the area was an orchard district…but in 2017 we find ourselves as one of the last tree fruit operations in a residential district in the city of Wenatchee,” Phillippi said.

June and July cherry harvest is the company’s upcoming focus and its cherry packing plant at Baker Flats will be fully ready, he said.

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