Washington Fruit Industry Takes Hit From Wildfires

Washington Fruit Industry Takes Hit From Wildfires

Firefighters are still in a defensive mode this morning, the Wenatchee World reported just over one hour ago, trying to protect structures as fires continue to spread north and west of Chelan, WA, a town just north of the “Apple Capital of the World,” Wenatchee.

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As for the fruit industry, although some orchards had suffered fire damage, Reggie Collins, CEO of Chelan Fruit, a cooperative of 300 growers, the biggest hit was to what is called Plant 1 of its facilities, he told the Seattle Times.

The losses included stacks of empty bins, ready to be filled with apples. Around 150,000 of the bins went up in flames, at $70 apiece. Something like 450,000 packed boxes of apples — about 1.8 million pounds — of last season’s and this season’s harvest ended up cooked. They will be taken to fields and mixed in as fertilizer.

The facility has 800 employees. Collins said they’d try and move them to other facilities the cooperative has. He also said he’s reaching out to other packing places — competitors, in some instances — for help in dealing with this season’s crop.

Chelan Fresh had posted the following message on its website this morning:

“Growers and Employees,

Management, IT staff, and others have been working tirelessly through the weekend to plan a restart on Tuesday. This recovery team has been assessing damages and planning the best way to continue to operate at a high level during this very challenging time.

Please check back regularly for updates.”

Sources: Seattle Times, Wenatchee World