News

Maple Ridge mill fire under investigation

A massive fire destroyed a cedar mill in Maple Ridge early Sunday.

The blaze started shortly after midnight at the Waldun Group mill on 287th Street and Lougheed Highway, in Ruskin, near the Mission border.

Maple Ridge assistant fire chief Mark Smitton was the first to arrive and found the mill engulfed in flames.

At the height of the blaze, flames stretched 100 feet into the night sky. The glow from the fire could be seen from as far away as Abbotsford.

Smitton said firefighters managed to contain the fire to the mill and protected a workshop and equipment nearby. A lack of fire hydrants and collapsing hydro lines hampered the initial attack.

Mission Fire/Rescue Service's tanker trucks were called in to help supply water.

"Unfortunately, the shake mill is a complete loss, which will put up to 50 employees out of work," Smitton added.

No one was injured in the fire, which was called in by a night watchman, the only employee on site when the fire started.

Investigators believe the fire started in an area where maintenance work was being done Saturday.

The mill was built before a district sprinkler bylaw was approved. The fire department believes sprinklers likely would have saved the mill or minimized the damage.

Andy Trottier, who works as a boom man, surveyed the blackened, scorched skeleton of the mill with his co-workers Sunday morning as investigators began to sift through the remains to determine what caused the fire.

"Everyone is pretty close," he said of his workplace.

Trottier is worried about his job, but shrugged and said, "Life goes on.

"Either rebuild or look for another job."

The family-run mill had been in operation in Ruskin for almost 40 years.

It was built in 1974 by Wynn Walker. According to the company website, Walker eventually merged three mills to form the Waldun Group. Waldun Forest Products is now one of the largest operations in the shake and shingle industry.

- with files from @ColleenFlanagan

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