Flare-ups continue at Tolko’s Lakeview sawmill in Williams Lake where a fire broke out Thursday around 6:20 p.m. Photo submitted

Stubborn fire still flaring up at Williams Lake sawmill

Firefighters work 25 hours straight to contain initial blaze

Flare-ups have kept firefighting crews and Tolko busy at Tolko’s Lakeview Division in Williams Lake where a fire broke out in the sawmill at about 6:20 p.m. last Thursday.

“It appears the fire is hiding in the ceiling a bit, and that’s what we are dealing with,” communications advisor Janice Lockyer told the Tribune Monday.

Lockyer said the fire has mostly impacted saw filer and general sawmill offices.

The Williams Lake Fire Dept. were on scene off and on throughout the weekend, with assistance from the 150 Mile Volunteer Fire Dept. from 9 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday.

Deputy Fire Chief Rob Warnock said his crews were there for 25 hours straight from 6:36 p.m. Thursday and then back late Friday, Saturday for about 10 hours and again Sunday evening for a few hours.

“Tolko had employees monitoring and they had their own equipment so they could get in and rip the siding and plywood off so we could get our equipment and manpower into the mill,” Warnock said. “There is plywood up against the tin roof and if there is dust inside that is what keeps catching on fire.”

Warnock said Tolko will be taking the roof off and the offices out and that will help.

“Ours was mainly a lot of aerial work because that way we could pump out so much water,” Warnock said, noting Tolko had its own high lifts with guns to shoot water into the building. “We brought three apparatus and initially 20 firefighters, but after that first 25 hours I had to start letting guys rotate so they could go to work or get some sleep.”

United Steelworkers Union Local 2017 first vice-president Paul French said Monday the union is “kind of nervous,” but that employees are working on the planer today, just not in the sawmill.

“I know they are running three shifts at the planer and the trucks are still coming in,” French said. “I think they are trying to have people doing whatever they can. I haven’t talked to them yet to know what the numbers are, but Tolko is trying to accommodate their employees with work.”

Tolko’s woodlands manager Tom Hoffman told the Tribune the assessment and investigation continues, but it would appear there is some damage to sawmill equipment, but most of the damage is structural to the building.

“The structural engineers were here on Sunday, and we are waiting for WorkSafeBC to allow us to go into the mill because we cannot send workers in there the way it is,” Hoffman said. “The plan is to tear the cladding off the roof and the siding to get a better view and understanding of how much damage there is and then we will go from there.”

Hoffman said the fire is a blow to the employees and operations.

“We’ve gone through a disastrous year this year with fires and then to have this happen is heartbreaking.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

Directional traffic change coming to one-way street beside McLeod Elementary

This change will be in effect starting Monday, Oct. 5.

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Cullen confirmed as B.C. NDP candidate for Stikine despite party’s equity policy

Former Tahltan Central Government President Annita McPhee said the process made her feel “abused”

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Most Read