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Washington State Fire Not Expected to Affect Cherry Exports

July 01, 2015

A large wildfire that started near the city of Wenatchee, Washington, USA on Sunday, June 28 had by early Monday morning local time spread into the city’s residential and commercial districts, causing widespread damage but no serious injuries.

Located roughly 120 miles (193km) east of Seattle, Wenatchee sits at the heart of one of Washington’s major fruit producing regions. Local media reported that the fire caused millions of dollars in damage and destruction to at least four fruit industry-related facilities, including destroying a fruit packing plant owned by Blue Bird Inc.

The destruction of the Blue Bird facility caused a cloud of ammonia to be released from its cold storage system, prompting authorities to instruct nearby residents temporarily to stay indoors, shut off air conditioners and close their windows.

Another structure that sustained fire damage was a packing facility on Miller Street owned by Stemilt Growers LLC, which packs Rainier cherries at this time of year, as well as pears in the fall and winter.

Responding to concerns among Chinese importers that damage to the packing plant could affect exports of Rainier cherries to China, Brianna Shales, Communications Manager at Stemilt, told Produce Report that she does not believe there will be any impact.

“[The packing facility] is non-operational at this time but we do not know the extent of the long-term damage,” Shales initially told Produce Report. “The cause of the fire has not been confirmed. We are continuing to export Stemilt cherries as we have other facilities that are operational.”

Shales later contacted Produce Report with the following update: “This will not affect exports to China in any way. We are fully operational."

Rainfall on the 29th brought a measure of relief from the fire, but Washington State as a whole continues to suffer from severe drought conditions.

Photo Source: The Wenatchee World

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