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North-central Oregon fire leads to total loss of hemp processing plant

A fire at a hemp processing plant in Sherman County, Oregon, injured several people Sunday.

In a Monday interview, Sherman County director of emergency services Dana Pursley-Haner said the fire in the city of Grass Valley injured at least five people, including two critically.

The fire spurred the county to evacuate the town of about 150 people Sunday, but Pursley-Haner said local authorities started letting residents return to their homes after the fire was contained late Monday morning.

“We were worried about wind shifting, and I guess it did several times last night. It would have blown directly into Grass Valley, which is something that we did not want to happen,” she said.

Pursley-Haner said the fire started while a skeleton crew was working at the facility. The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire, which has not been determined.

Pursley-Haner said the hemp processor was a major employer, not only in Sherman County, but the region. The fire turned the building into a total loss, and she didn’t know how the business, GVB Biopharma, would be affected long term.

According to its website, GVB is one of the “country’s top producers of wholesale, hemp-based raw material products.” The company also sells items like CBD edibles, topicals and pet products.

Jim Mish, the CEO of GVB’s parent company, told the Capital Press that the company employed 50-100 people in Grass Valley and was in “full-assessment mode” after the fire while they focused on the injured employees and their families.

Sherman County is located in north-central Oregon, in the eastern part of the Columbia River Gorge. The second-least populated county in the state, Sherman County is also one of the top producers of wheat in Oregon. In 2018, the Substation Fire burned tens of thousands of acres in Sherman County as winds pushed the fire through wheat fields, leading to one death.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Antonio Sierra