ATHOL, Idaho – Fire erupted at a sawmill along U.S. Highway 95 Wednesday morning, sending plumes of black smoke into the air and suspending operations as firefighters arrived.
There were no reports of injuries. Employees were on break when the fire started in the planer mill building at about 10 a.m.
One worker said damage appeared to be significant.
The mill site includes a finger joint mill owned by Merritt Bros. Lumber Co. Inc. and the planer mill that is being leased from Merritt by Vaagen Brothers Lumber Inc. out of Colville.
An investigation into the fire’s origin is underway. One employee working on the planer said he stopped at break time, cleaned his work area and then went to a nearby office to eat, said Jim Lyon, deputy fire marshal with the Northern Lakes Fire Protection District, one of five fire agencies that responded to the scene.
The power went out as the employee was eating lunch, Lyon said. When the employee opened the door to see what was happening, the production floor was engulfed in flames and smoke.
About 50 percent of the planer mill was on fire. A nearby wood storage building became hot due to its proximity to the fire, so firefighters sprayed it to keep it from igniting.
Though the fire is contained, crew members said it could be hours before firefighters were able to access the interior of the planer mill to extinguish remaining flames and smoldering equipment and product.
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