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Fruit processing plant fire

Video by Frank K.

Update -- July 22, 10 a.m.

Fire crews in Vernon were hard at work once again after another suspicious fire broke out overnight.

This latest blaze was called in around 11:15 p.m. Monday night, at the BC Fruit Growers’ processing plant on Waddington Drive in Vernon.

Fire Chief Keith Green says about 1,000 apple pallets were set ablaze inside the locked compound.

"When I arrived on scene, the flames were probably 50 feet above the pile,” says green, who estimates the piles themselves were stacked 40 feet off the ground.

“There was a rather large stack of apple crates in two piles, separated by a walkway or fire break. The fire started in the far back corner of the property, with very little access. And a large amount of pallets were already significantly involved."

Crews set up two ladders above the fire in order to knock it down. Damage has been tallied at about $100,000.

Green says this latest fire is suspicious in nature, pointing out the time it was set, the lack of ignition sources and the fact that it occurred in a locked compound.

“All I can say is that the last two fires we had, both the grand stand fire and this one, were significantly bigger than any of the other events that we had. Whether that means they’re getting more brazen or we’re not sure they’re the same people. Until we rule out everything else on this one, right now it just remains suspicious, but certainly we’ve had some bigger events these last few weeks.

Earlier on Monday, Vernon RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk had commented on a two week lull in the rash of suspicious fires, hoping the arsonist had hung up his lighter or matchbook.

“We are happy there has been no further fires but we still continue to investigate this recent rash of fires. For whatever reason it has stopped and we are happy it is not still occurring, said Molendyk. “But that doesn’t mean the individual isn't still around.”

There have been 22 suspicious fires recorded around the Vernon area since late May. 

-- Ragnar Haagen

2:30 a.m. update: Witnesses report the fire is now out.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

11:35 p.m. July 21: Fire crews are tackling a raging fire in the fruit bins at the BC Fruit Growers' processing operation in Vernon.

Witnesses are reporting flames leaping 100 feet in the air, the fire broke out at around 11:30 p.m..

Police have the area blocked off.

Firefighters are using at least one ladder truck to try and douse the blaze from above while crews on the ground work to stop the fire from spreading.

The fruit plant is in the 1200 block of Waddington Drive.

There is no word on the cause of the fire. The RCMP are investigating at least 20 reported suspicious fires in the area in the last few months.

More details to follow.

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