Workers at a Pacific Seafood processing plant near Astoria are racing to finish modifications on a borrowed plant following a devastating fire last week.
The fishing season is in full swing and Pacific Seafood has made a quick pivot to keep production rolling.
Crews have been busy at the site Pacific Seafood has leased as a temporary headquarters for processing whiting and groundfish.
Bill Hunsinger is a commissioner at the Port of Astoria, and has fished himself for 50 years. He’s been watching the action at the borrowed facility.
“The plant manager had 27 trucks in the morning bringing stuff to that facility,” Hunsinger says.
Hunsinger’s been in close contact with Pacific Seafood. The Warrenton facility was not a total loss. The dock still stands. And, Hunsinger says, the industrial ice machine that’s critical for keeping fish cold is still running. Parts of the plant will be functional this season.
“I can’t believe it, they’re working around the clock. I think they had every electrician in Clatsop County up there working on the electrical part of it,” Huntsinger said.
The temporary facility Pacific Seafood will use is subleased from California-based Del Mar Seafoods, which in turn leases it from the Port of Astoria. At this time of the year, the building is idle.
The fishing industry runs on a tight supply line. If processors aren’t open, fish can’t be put in a warehouse for a few days. Fishermen face losing tens of thousands of dollars per day. And related industry workers such as processors, fish markets, and suppliers suffer as well.
So the destruction of the biggest fish processing plant in Clatsop County was a frightening jolt for fishermen up and down the Oregon Coast.
Commercial fisherman Gary Wintersteen’s boat is based in Warrenton, and he’s sold fish to Pacific Seafood on and off for about fifteen years.
“The dock manager, Domenic, called me up the day of the fire, said, ‘Stop stop stop fishing. We don’t know what’s going to happen here. We’re on fire.’ “
What unfolded at the dock was one of the largest structure fires in Clatsop County’s recent history, with departments in three neighboring jurisdictions responding.
The state fire marshal says it looks as though it was accidental, but a full report by insurance investigators is still pending.