WILNO – A family-owned and operated sawmill is destroyed and 14 employees are out of work following a blaze that ripped through Etmanskie Lumber on November 11.
The blaze happened around 2:45 a.m. that morning.
Rita Etmanskie, who lives across from the mill on Opeongo Road, was awoken during the night. When she got up, she saw a reflection in the living room window and realized the sawmill was on fire.
She immediately phoned for help and firefighters with the Madawaska Valley Fire Department were on scene within 15 minutes. Both the Barry’s Bay and Combermere stations were called to battle the fire.
Unfortunately, when they arrived, the building was completely engulfed in flames. Deputy Fire Chief Stuart Hecht said it took 15 firefighters nine hours to extinguish it.
“It is unfortunate that we weren’t called sooner,” he said. “It’s unfortunate it happened at the time of day that it happened because nobody was there. If it happened during the day with employees around, the outcome would have been a lot better.”
The fire was a difficult one to put out, Hecht added. In addition to the accumulated wood chips in the building, there were various fuel sources inside including tanks and hydraulic pumps, all of which were destroyed and literally added fuel to the fire.
As the building burned, the steel roof had toppled over, which contained the fire and made it difficult to access, Hecht explained.
“We couldn’t get at it,” he explained.
Read more in the November 13, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.