Fire damages Idaho grain elevator

by Laura Lloyd
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CRAIGMONT, ID. — Insurance adjusters were headed to the smoldering aftermath of a major May 12 fire at a chick pea storage facility owned by Hinrichs Trading and three adjoining elevators owned by Columbia Grain that held a variety of crops ranging from peas and lentils to barley.

The report by insurers will help nail down the cause, the price tag — expected to be in the millions of dollars — and the time frame required to rebuild from the ground up. Until then, the owners will have to figure out how to compensate for the loss of a combined storage capacity of 700,000 bus, although neither facility was full when the fire started.

Max Hinrichs, vice-president of Hinrichs Trading, Pullman, Wash., said the buildings, located in a remote part of the small Idaho town of Craigmont, had probably been burning for a few hours before being discovered. He said his fourth-generation family business specializes in growing and selling chick peas (also called garbanzo beans) and is the largest chickpea-only company of its kind in the United States. The cause of the fire was unknown, he said, but he noted that garbanzo beans are not known for being particularly combustible when stored.

He said a railroad track separated his storage elevator and warehouse from the three Columbia Grain elevators, and the fact that the fire managed to spread across the tracks attested to its force. No one was hurt, but destruction of the Hinrichs elevator and adjoining warehouse and Columbia Grain elevators was assumed to be total.

Mr. Hinrichs said he foresaw little disruption to his business because the company has storage facilities in Pullman that could be utilized to hold the chick peas that normally would have been stored in Craigmont.

Randy Olstad, a regional manager for Columbia Grain, a subsidiary of Marubeni, Japan, with assets throughout the Northwest United States, said he could not comment on either the likely cause or the cost to rebuild the three cribbed elevators until after insurance professionals assessed the situation. He said the elevators and their contents remained in a smoky, smoldering state two days after the fire began.

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