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News / Northwest

Update: 3+ weeks later flames erupt from still burning, huge warehouse in Finley

By Tri-City Herald
Published: May 15, 2024, 7:46am

KENNEWICK — Flames flared up at the Lineage cold storage warehouse Monday night more than three weeks after the fire started.

The once-frozen vegetables at the Finley warehouse are thawed and are now drying out, creating new, dry fuel, said Benton Fire District 1 on social media.

Fire crews spent about three hours Monday night pouring water on the fire, after trucking the water to the warehouse.

They prevented the fire from spreading outside the footprint of the partially collapsed, 12-acre building.

The warehouse is beside a Columbia Irrigation District canal, but it has limits on how much water it can pull from the Yakima River and there is the potential that this could be a low water year.

Some water from the canal previously has been used on the fire, but Benton Fire District 1 says now there is nothing left to save at the warehouse “and we don’t want to prevent farmers and ranchers from having the water they need for the year.”

The fire has smoldered and burned after the initial fire suppression work when it started in a freezer the morning of April 21.

The remaining fire is in the center of the huge building, which is too unstable for firefighters to enter to extinguish the fire completely, according to Benton Fire District 1.

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“We keep trying, but based on where we can safely be inside the building and pressure needed for water to reach the burning area, and the lack of a consistent, high-volume water source, there’s not much we can do,” the district posted on social media.

It is believed to be the largest structure fire ever in the Tri-Cities area.

Benton Fire District 1 posted a message to Finley residents early Tuesday morning saying “you have shown tremendous grace, patience and support in the midst of this unprecedented fire event.”

The mostly volunteer crews of the fire district are no longer on site around the clock at the building at 224905 E. Bowles Road in Finley.

Instead, a security company is monitoring the partially collapsed building 24 hours a day. It is on the lookout for trespassers and acting as a fire watch, should fire burn outside the walls of the building and pose a threat of the flames spreading.

The security company notified Benton Fire District 1 at about 9:30 p.m. Monday that larger flames could be seen.

Walla Walla Fire District 5 also responded Monday night.

Benton Fire District 1’s Station 120 is only a block away.

Those at the station experience the same drifting smoke, which improves and then worsens again, as neighbors in the rural area there.

Lineage, called Linage Logistics until the name was shortened this spring, has plans to start the long process of dismantling parts of the building still standing and remove fire debris once the fire is out, according to Benton Fire District 1.

The fire district has asked the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to help investigate the cause of the fire.

Officials initially reported that the fire spread to the roof because the suppression system was partially blocked and couldn’t snuff all of it out.

The older section of the cold storage warehouse is now a pile of smoldering vegetables and packaging.

That half of the building was storing large boxes of potatoes cut into small pieces. He estimated the cardboard boxes that held them were about 4-feet square with a thin liner. They were stacked on wooden pallets.

The walls of the newer section of the cold storage facility that were made of noncombustible materials remain standing. But fire spread across the roof of the entire structure, destroying it.

The newer section of the plant held smaller containers of vegetables ready to ship, including more potatoes, corn, peas and carrots.