(Aug. 31) YAKIMA, Wash. — The ashes were still smoldering a week after a fire gutted the main packing shed and cold storage facility of Gilbert Orchards Inc.

“Workers saw smoke coming out and ran out of the building,” said Curtiss Gilbert, general manager and co-owner of the fourth-generation family growing and packing operation.

“This is the worst time in the world for a fire to happen, right at harvest time.”

The fire interrupted apple and soft fruit packing the evening of Aug. 26. After making arrangements with another Yakima packer, Gilbert’s 70-worker operation continued packing the next morning at a competitor’s shed. Gilbert declined to name the neighboring packinghouse.

Firefighters say they believe the fire started in the cold storage room, but have not officially determined its cause, Gilbert said. The investigation is continuing.

The shed was built in 1972. The cold storage facility was constructed in 1926.

Gilbert declined to give an estimate of the building’s value. He said the packing operation plans to rebuild.

Fearing its adjacent office would catch fire, the company moved the office’s contents away from the flames by packing them onto a flatbed trailer.