Employees of a cedar-shake mill near Maple Ridge were in tears Sunday after the operation was gutted by an early morning fire.
At least 60 workers are without jobs after the fire swept through the mill early Sunday. No one was hurt in the blaze.
â€œThe owners are so nice here,â€� said a teary-eyed Jasveer Dhaliwal, 50, who has worked at Waldun Forest Products since 1990.
â€œI am very shocked,â€� he added. â€�This mill is well-maintained and the safety record is 100 per cent.â€�
Similar to his co-workers who stopped by the Waldun mill to see first-hand the extensive damage, Rajinder Grewal, 48, said workers are worried about losing their jobs.
â€œThis mill is everything to me,â€� said Grewal, a shake-packaging employee. â€œThis mill is like my house. It is a very good company and safety is very good here,â€�
Maple Ridge assistant fire chief Mark Smitton said it is unclear how the fire started. He said the fire department got a call at 12:15 a.m. Sunday and when they arrived, the fire had destroyed the shake producing section of the mill.
â€œUpon our arrive the mill was fully involved,â€� he said.
But he said they were able to keep the fire to one building and they were able to save the packaged cedar that was stacked in piles nearby.
The cause of the fire is still unclear, he said.
â€œWeâ€™ve got a couple areas we are looking at,â€� he said.
He did not discount arson.
â€œWe are not ruling it out,â€� he said of a possible arson at the mill.
The major damage is to the shake and shingle machines, used to cut up the cedar.
He also said the mill had a good safety record and there appears to be no problems with sawdust buildup.
â€œIt seems they have a pretty good cleaning program,â€� he said.
Kirk Nagy, a partner in the Waldun Group, said the mill has not had a fire since 1985.
And he said the upcoming months are normally the busiest for the plant.
â€œThis is hard for us,â€� he said of the fire which is expected to run into the millions.
â€œIt should be the busiest time of the year.â€�
But he held out optimism they will rebuild and not lose any jobs.
â€œWe wonâ€™t be running next week â€” thatâ€™s for sure,â€� he said. â€œHopefully the insurance people are fair and quick.â€�
He was unclear how the fire started.
During the day, there was routine maintenance done inside the building, Nagy said.
A night watchman noticed the fire and then called for help.
Nagy also said they have a safety record which is among the best in the business.
â€œWe have a great safety record,â€�he said.
When asked if the shake-making equipment will be replaced, Nagy said it is too early to say.
â€œI would like to say that, but we just donâ€™t know everything,â€� he said.
Waldun sells much of its products to the northeastern United States and around the world.
B.C. sawmills have come under intense scrutiny lately for sawdust levels after a mill explosion and fire in Prince George on April 23.
That followed a mill explosion at the Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake that killed two workers and destroyed the operation on Jan. 20.
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