The large cold storage unit at Stahl Orchards in Paonia is a total loss following a fire which was discovered around 3:30 p.m. on Monday, May 6. Paonia fire fighters were on the scene until about 9 p.m.
Owner Arvin Stahl said this is the first fire at the orchards since it opened in 1924. Stahl has another, smaller cold storage building which can be used this season. The retail store and packing shed were not damaged. "The facility as a whole is still intact, but the cold storage unit is gone and it is a 40 by 60 foot building," Stahl said. Stahl Orchards will be open for business this season.
It's not known at this time what started the fire. During the off season, Stahl parks his equipment in the unit. "I think one of the tractors managed to short out ... and some how started the fire, but we're not sure yet," he said. "One of the worst things is that we've lost four tractors." All the contents in the building were lost, including fruit bins, ladders and picking boxes. The building will have to be torn down and rebuilt.
"It was a difficult fire to put out because we had a lot of bins and picking boxes stored in there, and it was hard to get around," Stahl said. The fire got into the building's insulation. The insulation is sprayed with a substance for use in a cold storage facility. The fire got into and around the insulation. Fire fighters were forced to tear down the building's walls to get the water behind the bins. "It's quite a sight," Stahl said.
"It's a tragedy. We'll get it done. I don't know if we'll make it by fruit harvest or not, but I do have another small cold storage unit next to the fruit stand that we can continue to operate. It won't be very convenient, but we'll make it," Stahl said.
Mike Byers, Paonia Fire Department chief, said about 21 fire fighters worked on the blaze. The department was dispatched around 4 p.m. to Stahl Orchards. The wood bins were stacked to the ceiling and some were filled with apple wood. Byers thanks the Crawford fire fighter who was in the area and stopped in to assist and also the Crawford Ladies Auxiliary which brought the Paonia fire crew sandwiches and drinks.blog comments powered by Disqus