Blaze damages Baker Produce in Kennewick
A Kennewick vegetable processing center was still smoldering Wednesday after fire tore through two floors of the industrial building overnight.
Firefighters first learned about the blaze around 11:30 p.m. when people spotted smoke near Fruitland Street and Railroad Avenue, said fire Battalion Chief Tod Kreutz.
Fire crews soon discovered flames and smoke inside the Baker Produce plant across the railroad tracks from the Tri-City Herald in downtown Kennewick.
“Crews pushed hard to find a deep-seated fire in the warehouse,” Kennewick firefighters said on their Facebook page. “They were met with tremendous heat, zero visibility and compromised construction.”
Crews were able to protect a good portion of the manufacturing equipment by keeping the fire from advancing, Kreutz said.
The 12,000-square-foot building dates back to 1963 when pieces were brought in by rail. The company processes potatoes, asparagus, apples and cherries throughout the year.
Heavy equipment was brought in later in the day to tear through the side of the building to get at the remaining flames.
No workers were inside of the building when it started burning, and no firefighters were hurt.
Deputy Fire Marshal Brian Ellis said they had the flames contained within an hour and a half. The damage inside is significant — at least half of the two-story building burned.
Much of the fire was on the second story, which was a mezzanine that was open to the manufacturing floor.
Firefighters know the fire started on the second floor but they were still working to determine how it began.
Kennewick was joined by Pasco and Richland fire departments, along with Benton County Fire districts 1, 2 and 4, Franklin County Fire District 3 and Walla Walla County Fire District 5.
The Benton County Assessor estimates the entire complex’s value is $920,000.
The company employed at least 65 people at the location, Ellis said.
Representatives from Baker Produce declined Wednesday to talk about the fire.