Cause of fire at Southwest Washington seafood facility under investigation - OPB

The cause of a massive fire that destroyed a seafood landing facility and thousands of commercial crab pots in Ilwaco on Monday is still unknown.

A seafood facility in Ilwaco, Washington caught fire on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown. Wok

Cause of fire at Southwest Washington seafood facility under investigation - OPB

Investigators from Pierce County and from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were expected to be on scene Wednesday to conduct a routine investigation. The fire is not considered suspicious at this time, according to Ilwaco Fire Chief Jeff Archer. Damage estimates are still being compiled.

No injuries were reported, but residents estimate just under 10 commercial fishermen had gear stored at the site. For them, the fire represents a major loss as they scramble to gather what they need ahead of the opening of the West Coast commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Oregon and Washington on Feb.1.

“It’s really hard to describe what type of labor comes into putting these things together,” said Peter Nornes, a lifelong fisherman who contracts with Bornstein’s. He lost 500 pots in the fire. “It is basically — yeah, it’s 20 years of my life right there that just went up in smoke.”

Fishermen say crabbers along the West Coast are organizing donations to help those affected by the fire. Nornes has received some pots from friends. He says there’s no point dwelling on the situation.

“In our line of work, you know, you run into snags like this,” he said. “To be a really good commercial fisherman, you become a really good problem solver.”

For now, he’s focused on collecting another round of pots — at least enough to get him out on the water next week.

Some hurdles the crabbers face are state regulations that require certain types of buoys and identification tags on crab gear. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is working with crabbers who had gear registered with the state to get the required identification tags for any new crab pots.

Bridget Mire, a spokesperson for the department, said details are still being finalized but the state is doing everything it can to get crabbers out on the water for the season opener.

“WDFW extends our deepest sympathies to all fishers affected by this fire,” Mire said. “We are glad to see support from the local fishing community, including donation or lending of gear, and we will do what we can to help.”

Firefighters from eight of Pacific County’s 11 fire protection agencies responded to the blaze at the former Ilwaco Landing site Monday. Limited water supply at the scene was an issue and firefighters were further hampered in their efforts to control the flames by the presence of thousands of crab pots. The pots were arranged in tall, close stacks at the facility in anticipation of the Dungeness opener.

Some pots staged farther up the hill from the fire escaped heat and fire damage, but fishermen expect that pots down near the dock and facility buildings are a total loss. Officials say materials used in the pots also fed the flames.

As thick plumes of noxious black smoke billowed up from the fire, county emergency management officials warned Ilwaco residents to shelter inside and keep doors and windows shut.

The fire was contained later that day though hotspots persisted throughout the night and into Tuesday. The Washington State Department of Ecology was on the scene Tuesday to assist with environmental impacts.

West Coast seafood processor Bornstein Seafood’s owns the property. Representatives of the company have not responded to a request for comment.

For previous coverage, go here.

A massive fire broke out at a crab-landing facility in Pacific County on Monday, inflicting significant damage on the facility and destroying fishing gear ahead of Washington’s commercial Dungeness crab season.

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Cause of fire at Southwest Washington seafood facility under investigation - OPB

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