$3-million damage in sawmill fire
MARBURG – The future of a sawmill operator and his workforce is uncertain following a devastating fire at Porter Lumber Wednesday morning.
The alarm was called in to Norfolk Fire and Rescue around 1:15 a.m. By time firefighters arrived at the scene on St. John’s Road East, the mill’s main processing centre was fully involved.
No injuries were reported. However, damage is pegged at $3 million. The property was not insured.
Shannon Porter is the third generation of his family to operate the mill, which is located on 10 acres between Port Dover and the hamlet of Marburg. The processing centre that was destroyed had a floor area of about 6,000 square feet and was filled with equipment.
Porter said it would be a long, hard climb back to rebuild. Aside from the expense and the estimated two years it would take, Porter suspects his 10 employees will have found other work by then. Porter said these workers are specifically trained for his operation and would be hard to replace.
“We know three families that have lost kids in car accidents this year, so this isn’t that important,” Porter said at the scene. “It’s just material things.”
The blaze prompted an overwhelming response from Norfolk Fire and Rescue and the Haldimand County Fire Department.
Fifty-one firefighters pitched in to save the surrounding lumber and buildings. Pumpers, tankers and personnel responded from Port Dover, Simcoe, Waterford, Delhi, Vittoria, St. Williams, Jarvis and Hagersville.
“Anytime there is a fire at a business we try to protect the functional assets so everyone can get back to work as soon as they can,” Scott Pipe, Norfolk’s fire prevention officer, said at the scene Wednesday morning.
“There are assets here that people’s jobs depend on.”
The Porter family has run a lumber mill in this location since 1944.
Porter estimated the fire will impact 200 jobs directly and indirectly once loggers, truckers and associated trades are factored in.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue has traced the origins of the fire to an electrical panel in a room at the rear of the mill. Given the mill’s isolated location in the countryside and the large piles of unsawed logs at the front of the property, the fire would have been roaring by time anyone saw it.
Pipe said firefighters responding to the alarm from Port Dover reported that the sky over the mill was orange as they made their way to St. John’s Road East.
This is not the first fire at Porter Lumber. A blaze 19 years ago caused serious damage, from which it took about a year to recover. Porter has options. The mill still has its customers and plenty of raw inventory on site.
Porter can farm out the processing of timber and continue to supply his customers. However, whether he invests the time and energy to rebuild will “take some headscratching,” he said.
Fire destroyed the saw mill at Porter Lumber north of Port Dover Wednesday morning. Total damage has been pegged at $3 million.