Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Washington Fire Drops Ash Like Snow, Destroys Fruit Co-op

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Smoke hangs over the Columbia River and the landscape burned by the Reach Complex fires north of Chelan, Washington.

As ash fell Sunday on downtown Chelan, Washington, a nearby fruit packing cooperative that called itself the world's largest stood in ruins. It's one of dozens of businesses and homes destroyed in the Reach Complex fires.

Apples baked on the tree. The concrete walls of warehouse-sized packing sheds leaned, distorted from the heat of the fire. Damage to the cooperative is estimated at $50-$80 million.

Lightning ignited the fires on Friday and wind whipped the flames ever closer to a school and the local Walmart.

"It was very scary," said firefighting spokesman Brian Lawatch. Weather cooperated with firefighters to help save some buildings in the fire's path, but not all of them.

"There were buildings destroyed in town," said Lawatch. "Especially on the southern part of Chelan."

At least 25 structures are destroyed with more than 100 still threatened. An incident command spokesman said the Reach Complex fires were the top priority fires in the nation on Sunday.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.