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Fire destroys gourmet asparagus operation

OUTLOOK - Fire engulfed an Outlook warehouse this past Friday, taking with it a gourmet white asparagus operation, as well as refrigerators that store the Friend family peonies and flower bulbs.

According to Yakima County Fire District #5 Captain Ken Robillard, the large metal structure at 611 Price Road owned by John Friend limited firefighter accessibility, despite the fact that there were roughly 10 entrances into the building.

Robillard said metal structures present two challenges: heat that retains metal and razor sharp edges. In a metal structure fire, once the walls collapse, firefighters are then tasked with pulling all the metal out. "It's just not something we send the guys into...it's not safe," Robillard said, adding the decision was also contingent upon how much of the building's contents could be saved.

When firefighters arrived on scene, the warehouse was fully charged with smoke and flames. "A defensive attack was used throughout the fire to protect existing exposed structures and fuel tanks that weren't already involved in the fire," Robillard said.

Karen Friend said the asparagus is called Gourmet Baby White Asparagus, and Scott Friend is the owner of that branch of operations. Friend said the asparagus, no larger in diameter than a pencil, has been sent as far away for consumption as the White House in Washington D.C.

The white asparagus is grown in the dark, Robillard said, adding that it's not even cut like traditional asparagus. Friend added, "Because it's so thin, it just snaps right off."

Robillard noted white asparagus had just been harvested that morning.

Loss of the warehouse for now means loss of the niche market.

Friend said coolers that house the flowers post-harvest, as well as the flower bulbs, are destroyed. "There's nothing left at the warehouse. We'll probably try and find cooler space somewhere.

"There are a lot of decisions to be made at this point," Friend said. "It's too new. You just don't know where to start."

Firefighters say the Friday afternoon blaze resulted in estimated losses of up to $250,000.

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