Fire devastates Southwest Washington seafood facility

By Katie Frankowicz (KMUN)
ILWACO, Wash. Jan. 23, 2024 7:12 p.m.
A cloud of black smoke rises above a large fire at a building located on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Southwest Washington.

A seafood facility in Ilwaco, Washington, caught fire on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown.

Courtesy Kathy Hudkins

A massive fire broke out at a crab-landing facility in Pacific County on Monday, inflicting significant damage on the facility and destroying fishing gear ahead of Washington’s commercial Dungeness crab season.


Ilwaco residents were warned to stay indoors and keep windows and doors shut because of hazardous smoke from the fire. This danger had passed by the early evening, according to officials with Pacific County Emergency Management Agency.

No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown. However, witnesses said that hundreds of crab harvesting pots stacked in preparation for the upcoming commercial crab season opener were destroyed in the blaze. The season is set to open Feb. 1 following multiple delays. It is one of the state’s largest and most lucrative fisheries.

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The Ilwaco facility, formerly known as Ilwaco Landing, is owned by West Coast seafood processor Bornstein’s Seafoods, which also operates seafood processing plants in Astoria, Oregon, and Bellingham, Washington.

A representative for the company could not be reached for comment.


Firefighters with the Ilwaco Fire Department, the Long Beach Fire Department and Pacific County Fire District No. 3 responded to the fire.

Butch Smith, chair of the Port of Ilwaco Board of Commissioners, saw the flames from his front window. He called it a heartbreaking situation, especially for fishermen.

“Last year’s crab season was not the best and there was no albacore this summer and now their pots burn up just before they get ready to go fishing,” Smith said. “It’s just a perfect storm of a disaster if I’ve ever heard one.”

Bornstein’s Ilwaco facility, located near the Port of Ilwaco, is privately owned, but Smith says it is a loss to the wider community, the commercial fishermen and the port as a whole.

He noted that the pounds of seafood that cross processors’ docks are key when the port makes its case for the federal funding it needs to dredge navigation channels into Ilwaco’s Baker Bay. Regular dredging is necessary to keep these channels clear and ensure the port remains open for both recreational and commercial fishermen.

“So it has a big effect, potentially a big effect,” Smith said.

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With that in mind, Smith says the port has a role to play in seeking and promoting aid for the fishermen and the Bornstein’s facility itself. He has been in conversation with U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a Democrat who represents Southwest Washington, and has reached out to Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat.

In a statement posted to social media, Gluesenkamp Perez urged anyone affected by the fire to reach out to her office. She thanked the first responders and said, “My heart is with those being treated, as well as the crabbers who lost boats and suffered damages. With crab season starting next week, this is an especially devastating blow.”