Warrenton lost a major employer Tuesday when Pacific Coast Seafood was destroyed by fire that began late in the morning generating hugh flames and towering columns of thick black smoke from the site on the Skipanon waterway. Crews from Warrenton fire were first on the scene and were joined by Astoria firefighters and crews from Gearhart, Lewis and Clark, Seaside and Olney Walluski. In all 55 personnel and 15 vehicles were involved. No one suffered injury.
Pacific Seafood CEO Frank Dulcich supplied the following comment for KAST News;
"Our Warrenton facility has suffered a devastating fire. First and foremost, we are grateful that no one has been hurt. We are also grateful for the first responders in Clatsop County who fought the fire and managed the situation. 2013 marks our 30th year of operation in Clatsop County, and we plan to be there for many years to come. In the immediate term, we will utilize our other facilities in the region and the kind offers of our many friends to keep our Warrenton team-members and fishermen working and our customers served. We will announce the details of our actions in the next few days. We will also assess the damage to our facility and seek answers to the cause of the fire. Rest assured, we will do our best to keep our team-members, customers and a supportive community informed every step of the way."
A fire department spokesman says the structure is likely a total loss. About 1pm the south wall of the plant collapsed and reportedly three loud booms were heard coming from the building. KAST reporter Collin McDonnell was on the scene minutes after the fire was reported and said massive flames spread through the building as crews were directing multiple jets of water into the roof area of the structure. The nearby Hampton Lumber Mill shutdown operations and evacuated the plant while offering their fire suppression system to aid in supplying more water to battle the big fire. Pacific Coast Seafood is one of Warrenton's largest employers. Reportedly the plant employs upwards to 130 workers who have now lost their jobs as a result of the fire. The Coast Guard has closed the Skipanon waterway behind the seafood plant and two motor-life boats were patrolling the area to keep boats away from the fire scene. It could be some time before the waterway is reopened to boat traffic Firefighters continued to pour water on the blaze and on a tank located just outside the building thought to contain ammonia which is used as a refrigerant in large fish processing operations. Officials did not call for further evacuations of area homes and businesses but employees of Pacific Coast Seafood were been pushed back twice to a safe distance and the fire showed no sign of slowing. The cause of the fire has not been determined officially but it may be that it started on the backside of the building where there is now a large hole. Several supply hoses are strung for some distance to connect to available hydrants and the Hamption Mill system. Officials say there has been no release of ammonia from the plant and speculation is that several large booms heard coming from the plant were the result of fuel tanks on small forklifts exploding. The dark smoke was most likely coming from the large number of heavy plastic fish totes destroyed in the flames. N.W. Natural crews were challenged in cutting off the natural gas line to the plant because they could not get close enough to the normal shutoffs. Instead the crew dug down to the line away from the plant and cut the line at that point. Electricity was also cut by utility crews. Meanwhile the Coast Guard is coping with boats attempting to get to their slips in the marina telling those skippers they will have to standby until the Fire Department gives the all clear to reopen the waterway which could take some time.
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