Fire hits cedar shake mill again

Fraser Cedar Products in east Maple Ridge the largest along the river

Fraser Cedar Products on Lougheed Highway is shut down after a fire Saturday.

Fraser Cedar Products on Lougheed Highway is shut down after a fire Saturday.

A night-time fire has shut down Fraser Cedar Products for the second time within a year, putting about 65 people out of work.

The blaze started at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, requiring 14 fire trucks from both Maple Ridge and Mission.

Maintenance work was being done on the mill in the morning, said Maple Ridge fire chief Dane Spence.

At some point, the sprinkler system was damaged by a piece of equipment, leaving half the mill without fire suppression. Work stopped when the sprinkler was damaged, but fire broke out in the late evening after everyone left.

“Once the sprinkler system was damaged, they ceased all operations. And then it’s believed the actions of the hot work done earlier in the day resulted in a fire,” Spence said.

“From a fire department perspective, this was a large-scare operation. Approximately, 70 firefighters from Maple Ridge and Mission attended with 14 pieces of apparatus on site.”

Mill owner Baljinder Gill said it’s not certain caused the fire.

“We don’t know. It’s still under investigation,” adding it could be electrical in nature.

During the battle, the CP Railway line was shut down so that fire trucks could move back and forth across the tracks to the mill at 27400-block Lougheed Highway.

A fire pump located at the mill supplied water to half of the mill to fight the fire, but tanker trucks had to haul in the rest of the water.

It took until after midnight to get the fire under control. At least half of the mill was destroyed. The portion that still had the sprinkler system was preserved.

There were no injuries.

Gill said only about a quarter of the mill remains. That could become operational if some new equipment is added, but said it will take a year to rebuild the mill entirely.

“It’s very sad.”

Gill said Fraser Cedar Products was the biggest shake mill remaining on the Fraser River.

A previous fire hit the mill on Nov. 30 last year, likely caused by welding earlier that day.