A major fire raced across the Ilwaco Landing dock at the mouth of the Columbia River in Washington State Monday, blanketing the area in smoke and reportedly destroying crab traps staged for a Dungeness crab season opener on Feb. 1.

Local news media reported the fire erupted around 11 a.m. and spread rapidly, drawing a widespread emergency response and advice from authorities for residents to stay indoors and avoid hazardous smoke from the fire. 

Firefighters continued working into the evening to confine the blaze at the dock and processing plant, owned by Starlight One LLC, into the evening Monday. Damage reports were incomplete, but in a posting on Facebook, the Newport Fishermen’s Wives group warned consequences could be dire: 

“Today, Oregon’s North Coast fleet has taken a huge hit! A large fish plant in Illwaco, Wash., had a tragic fire that also destroyed 1000s of crab gear that was staged and rigged to finally start their crab season. This is a potential disaster for some.”

The Chinook Observer reported that the landing – where parts of the timber structure dated to the late 19th century – had collapsed after the fire consumed traps on the dock. Fishermen and plant workers had staged the gear for start of the season’s pre-soak Jan. 29.

Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott McDougall told the Observer that “at this point I do not believe that the [Washington State Department of Ecology] is planning any response out here. Mostly what was in the water was woody debris and is probably going to have some creosote on it but there is not a huge [concern], at this point.”

In a statement Monday, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the fire “has caused significant damages to the Ilwaco Landing.”

“Thank you to the brave firefighters and first responders on the scene at the Port of Ilwaco. This is devastating news for the entire community, and I am continuing to monitor the situation closely. The waterfront is the heart of Ilwaco and the local economy. My prayers are with the entire community, including the cannery workers and fishing families who rely on the docks for their livelihoods.”

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