Fire destroys sawmill on Kenai Peninsula

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- A fire burned one of the Kenai Peninsula's largest sawmills to the ground, causing well over $1 million in damage, authorities say.

No one was injured in Tuesday's blaze, which was confined to the Alaska Spruce Products sawmill at Mile 147.5 of the Sterling Highway between Ninilchik and Anchor Point.

Workers discovered flames around 11 a.m.

''About 20 minutes later, all there was here was ashes,'' said Sid Bardwell, the sawmill's operations manager.

The blaze came at a bad place at a bad time, firefighters said. They had to launch a massive counterattack to keep it from spreading into a nearby forest, which was tinder dry.

Wood products stored in the yard also had given the flames a potentially rich fuel source.

One pile of bark and a portion of a log deck burned along with the sawmill. Fire crews had to break up piles of flaming wood to keep them from reigniting.

''There is a serious potential there,'' Central Emergency Services Capt. Randy Willis said. ''Think of it as like putting out a giant campfire.''

Bardwell said he wasn't sure what would happen next at the sawmill.

''Our plans are to make plans tomorrow,'' Bardwell told the Peninsula Clarion.

The sawmill was built in 1998. About three-dozen people worked at the site.

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