As we near the end of another fire season, we’ve been reflecting back to one year ago when we all woke up to the news that an Underwood Fruit warehouse had been engulfed in flames. Almost as sudden and unexpected as the fire its self was the community response. It was immediate and came without judgement or bias. The fire was still burning and donations began pouring in. A fundraiser was held, a film was made, and when all was said and done over $100,000 had been raised.
Over the course of the next few months families received help with rent, utilities, medical bills, and basic needs. Because of the outpouring of support, families who lost income due to the fire didn’t have to worry about facing an eviction notice, or having their power or water shut off. They were able to concentrate on the more important task at hand, getting back to work.
One year later, the warehouse is still under construction. Underwood Fruit has let us know that they expect to be back up and running in early December. For now, they are continuing to operate much like they did last season, with about 80% of their employees who are able to work and some choosing to wait to work until the new line is ready (many employees have to wait because they cannot work night shift). A portion of the employees who are working are able to work 2 out of every 3 weeks as they are rotating their packing crew to give work to everyone. Underwood Fruit is continuing to rely on industry partners to allow them to have pears packed on their lines and the apple line is operating at Underwood. There is a large pear crop being harvested this year and Underwood Fruit anticipates having plenty of work to do once the new packing line is operational.
This fire was and is something that continues to have an impact on families in our community. These are our neighbors, our friends, our schoolmates. Let’s not forget them.
Through fundraising efforts by Laurie Stanton, funds from Hood River Cultural Trust and from the Salvador Fund were provided to create a short film about this event and its impact on the community. Story Gorge LLC used the funds to hire a high school senior, Bruce Bradbury, to create the film as an internship, with guidance by Story Gorge staff. We’re proud to present the finished product, Fruta del Fuego https://www.storygorge.com/fruta-del-fuego
With the release of this film we hope to remind our community of the greatness of which it is capable. We all came together and made an astounding difference for the families who faced uncertainty. We also hope to remind our friends and neighbors to reach out if they’re struggling. We’re here.
Leslie Naramore, Laurie Stanton, and the Story Gorge Team