FRENCHVILLE — The owner of a sawmill destroyed by fire over the weekend said Monday it is his intention to rebuild the mill that employed 14 people.
Leo James Morin shook his head as he walked around his installation Monday noon, looking at the destruction. With him was one of his customers who had traveled to Frenchville to see the devastation.
Sawed wood, blackened by the fire, remained on huge steel rails within the mill area. The roof and sides of the building, made of petroleum-based material, were gone. Only heavy steel girders remained in place.
In some areas of the huge wood yard, sawed lumber awaited shipping. In other areas huge piles of cedar logs awaited processing. Large piles of scrap slabs of cedar, some tinder-dry, were piled from last year.
Morin said several employees came to see the destruction Monday morning.
“Several said they were willing to come and help in the rebuilding,” the owner said. “They want to help and get their jobs back.”
The sawmill was located about half a mile from U.S. Route 1 on the Brise Culotte Road.
Morin said he could see black smoke from the burning roof for several miles before arriving at the fire, which started Friday night. He said the machinery in the sawmill, which he has owned since 1981, was insured. The building itself, he said, was not. Morin estimated his loss at $300,000.
Frenchville Fire Chief Ronald Bouchard believed the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction, possibly a ballast in fluorescent lighting. He said the roof, held up by rafters covered with sawdust from years of operation, was quickly consumed.
Firefighters also had a hard time holding down the fire. Sparks flew around and ignited several stacks of slab wood, a byproduct of the sawing operation. The piles were several hundred feet from the burning building.
The mill sawed mostly cedar stock for the log home building trade. About a third of the output also went to another Morin operation in Madawaska which makes casement windows.
Morin said the Madawaska operation may be affected by the destruction of the sawmill.
The owner did not know how long it would take to get back into operation.
“It all depends on how long it takes to get the equipment to replace what was burned,” he said.