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Fire at Washington potato processor hurts already struggling industry

A potato processing plant in the central Washington town of Warden burned down in a dramatic overnight fire Thursday. By early Friday morning, emergency responders had evacuated nearly a third of the homes near the plant. Flames were licking a large tank of ammonia, and firefighters feared it might explode, reports Anna King of Northwest News Network.

“This was a very large fire,” Kyle Foreman with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department said. “Certainly one of the top 10 in my career.” The fire was called in around 5 p.m. Thursday. By nearly 9 p.m. came a Level 3 “Get Out Now” evacuation order, and officers began going door to door. Residents were allowed to go home about 1 a.m. Friday morning. No injuries have been reported.

Warden is a town of nearly 3,000 people set among some of this nation’s greenest irrigated agriculture. The plant was one of two dehydrated potato processing plants in the state, used to dry potatoes too ugly, small or large to sell to consumers. Those spuds instead end up in processed foods like instant mashed potatoes.

The plant’s owner is Frank Tiegs, a giant in the Northwest potato industry. He farms thousands of acres across the Northwest and owns plants in the Tri-Cities, and major facilities in Oregon and Idaho.

Source: OPB. Read the full report here

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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