(Feb. 16) SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — A fire that destroyed a Yakima Valley packing shed hasn’t significantly slowed apple packing activity.
Andrus & Roberts Produce Co. lost three days of packing apples after firefighters were called to extinguish a Feb. 5 fire that gutted the company’s potato packing line and two cold storage rooms in one of the packer’s nine warehouses.
The company resumed full packing Feb. 9.
“They couldn’t control it, so they tried to contain it to that building,” said Chad Roberts, owner of the 50-year-old packing firm.
Andrus & Roberts’ apple and asparagus operations weren’t disrupted, he said.
The packer is working with contractors to build a new potato packing line. Roberts said the packing line should be back in operation in time for the July start of the fresh potato deal.
Andrus & Roberts doesn’t pack any fall storage potatoes, Roberts said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Area media reported the corrugated metal building suffered as much as $1 million in damage. A fire official stated an electrical malfunction ignited the fire.
Roberts declined to discuss damages, but news reports stated that thousands of packed and unpacked apples were lost in the flames.
Roberts attributed employee involvement that helped minimize damage.
“They just started grabbing things and pulling asparagus lugs, boxes and other equipment away from the buildings,” he said.
“They ran the pumps to remove all the water left from the fire trucks. They were a big help.”