Fire at Tulare County citrus packing plant destroys 800,000 pounds of product

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Suntreat Packing and Shipping's general manager said that part of the facility is a complete loss, but he also said the 80 people who work at the plant still have a job and will just move next door. (KFSN)

Crews are still at the scene of a fire that tore through part of a citrus packing plant in the South Valley.

The fire broke out at the Suntreat Packing and Shipping Company in Lindsay and hundreds of thousands of pounds of citrus were destroyed.

The fire started at around 1 a.m. near Tulare Road and Oxford Avenue in the city of Lindsay, which is southeast of Visalia.

By the time the sun came up, the fire was still raging, sending smoke high into the air above the city.

"Something must have exploded," resident Roxanne Serna said. "You heard just like a big boom and black smoke everywhere so we decided let's walk down there and check it out."

Crews from around Tulare County knew they had already lost this part of the citrus packing facility. So, they focused on protecting the rest of it, making sure the fire didn't move farther south.

"Yes, we were successful, we were able to keep the exposure to the north end structure and keep it from spreading to the southern structure," Lindsay Fire Chief Chris Hughes said. "So, we did win that battle but we still have a large battle still ahead of us with some heavy equipment trying to pull the structure down and get to some active fire spots."

Fire crews expect to be on scene through Friday and possibly even Saturday.

The fire started at Friday morning and the first crews on scene noticed smoke but couldn't find the fire right away.

"Eventually found the fire between the sub flooring between the basement and the actual production decking of the structure," Hughes said. "It was smoldering in there."

It was too dangerous to go inside, so crews started an exterior attack by punching holes through the structure but they never gained access and the fire took the north structure down in a matter of minutes.

Suntreat Packing and Shipping's general manager said that part of the facility is a complete loss and that the blaze destroyed 800,000 pounds of fresh oranges that were waiting to be packed.

He said they'll have to figure out what's next, but that this won't put them out of business.
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