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

Valley man warning others through video following cyber attack

Julian White had his online portfolio hacked less than two weeks ago.

Life on street inspires Comox man to help others without homes

For Sam Franey, it all starts with making connections between people

Cumberland council awards two tenders for fire hall

Contracts cover civil works and mechanical infrastructure in building

L’Arche Comox Valley community reeling over findings of inquiry into founder

The local L’Arche community is reeling in the wake of a report… Continue reading

Comox Valley Waldorf School closing

The Comox Valley Waldorf School (CVWS) is familiar with change. It has… Continue reading

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read