Evans Fruit warehouse hit by second fire in two years - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Evans Fruit warehouse hit by second fire in two years

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Highland, WASH-- ***UPDATE***

Today's fire in Highland was something like déjà vu .  At about 1:30 this morning firefighters headed out to battle a large blaze at the Evans Fruit warehouse.  It took seven hours and 75 firefighters from Kittitas to Toppenish but they finally got the flames under control...or so they thought. Part of the fire had remained in the attic from the morning and grew as the afternoon progressed.  The residual flames ultimately caused the roof to collapse.  Around 4:30 this afternoon all of the different fire agencies were called back to 61 Hatton Road. 

For the second time today, firefighters say the blaze is now under control.  This isn't the first time fire has found its way to this warehouse. The one in April of 2008 did millions in damage there.  Officials estimate the damage in the millions this time too.  Investigators plan to look into the cause of the fire tomorrow. 

***EARLIER***

A warehouse fire cripples one of Washington's largest apple growers, and it's not the first time.

Evans Fruit's packing warehouse in Highland caught fire early Wednesday morning, doing millions of dollars in damage and bringing business to a standstill.

Roads closed.  Work canceled.  A business disrupted.

Wednesday, fire, smoke and water--not apples--came out of the Evans Fruit warehouse at the intersection of Summitview Avenue and Hatton Road.

"We thought we had a good handle on it but the fire got into the attic and rolled ahead of us so we had to regroup," Deputy Chief Jon Hall, Highland Fire Department, said.

It took seven hours and 75 firefighters from Kittitas to Toppenish to finally get the flames under control.

This isn't the first time fire has found its way to this warehouse.

An April 2008 blaze did millions in damage.  Hubert McKinney was there both times.

"Flames were about the same height [each time]," McKinney said.   "There were times when the flames went way up, and then you'd hear something fall or explode."

Last time, the fire started at the loading docks.

The fire started in the warehouse's packing line.  Flames quickly caved in the roof and walls.

"[The fire was a] little worse this time because it involves the packing equipment,"  Most of the forklifts have been taken out of the building so we saved that."

A top employee at Evans Fruit said he was "dumbfounded" that the same warehouse caught fire again.  The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there's little chance this plant will be ready for September's harvest.

It's not only a blow to Evans Fruit, but to the hundred or so people working here.

The 2008 fire was deemed suspicious, but never solved.

The Evans official suspects foul play again this time around.

Hall was first on the scene Wednesday morning.  He said he made a point to check for suspicious activity or open doors at the warehouse.

"The doors were all closed," Hall said.  "I see no similarities" [between the 2008 and 2010 fires.]

Hall didn't know the damage amount, just that it's upwards of $1 million.

Agents from the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) will lead the investigation into what--or who--started the fire.

First, crews have to put the fire out, which Hall did not expect to happen until late Wednesday evening.   

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