$3-mil­lion dam­age in sawmill fire

The Expositor (Brantford) - - NEWS - MONTE SONNENBERG SIM­COE RE­FORMER MSon­nen­berg@post­media.com

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.

MONTE SONNENBERG/SIM­COE RE­FORMER

Fire de­stroyed the saw mill at Porter Lum­ber north of Port Dover Wed­nes­day morn­ing. To­tal dam­age has been pegged at $3 mil­lion.

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