Aug 17, 2015Some 1.8 million pounds of apples lost in weekend wildfire
Chelan Fruit, a cooperative of 300 Washington state growers, was devastated by weekend wildfires, the biggest hit being to what is called Plant 1 of its facilities.
Although some orchards had suffered fire damage, said Reggie Collins, CEO of Chelan Fruit, the biggest hit was to what is called Plant 1 of its facilities.
The losses included stacks of those empty red bins, ready to be filled with apples, that you see when driving by orchard. Around 150,000 of the bins went up in flames, at $70 apiece.
Something like 450,000 packed boxes of apples — around 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.
And the plant itself could hold fruit in “controlled storage,” meaning at 31 to 33˚ F and 1 to 1.5 percent oxygen level, allowing apples to be kept for up to a year.
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.
“We’re trying to stay as positive as we can,” he said. “That’s all we can do.”
According to reports, tourism dollars were also lost in the blaze. The estimated loss in the area totals $50 million to $80 million.