Major fire destroys Rossland sawmill building

The aftermath of the Friday-night fire that burned into Saturday morning at Rossland Cedar. - Caley Mulholland photo
The aftermath of the Friday-night fire that burned into Saturday morning at Rossland Cedar.
— image credit: Caley Mulholland photo

Rossland's biggest structure fire in at least two years razed the planer building at the Bryden Sawmill on Highway 22 (Rossland Cedar) on Friday night, keeping fire fighters from Rossland, Warfield, Trail, and Montrose on scene from just before midnight until 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Dwight Wilson, the owner of Rossland Cedar — which took over from Jones Ties and Poles a couple years ago — did not wish to comment on the fire at this time, although regional fire Chief Terry Martin, the commander on scene, said that Wilson has been "very helpful" and have been "working really well" with the fire department as they work on identifying the cause of the fire.

"We got the call around 11:30," Martin said. "It was reported by the neighbour across the highway, also passerbys, and one of the employees who lives in a nearby building."

Martin was the first on scene and described the fire as intense.

"The roof had already collapsed and the walls were coming down. It was a very aggressive fire."

Martin couldn't recall the last time Rossland experienced a fire of this scale, but said it was "at least a couple years," and the "biggest in recent memory."

"We didn't let it burn to the ground," he clarified, noting that safety concerns forced them to wait for Fortis to turn off power to the building before sending firefighters into the fray.

In the meantime, the approximately 20 firefighters on scene put four hose lines around the building and started to put out the fire and protect the surrounding product — piles of lumber — and other structures so the fire didn't progress any further.

"Once Fortis shut the power off, we were able to get crews into the sections that were hot and put out the hot spots," Martin said.

It wasn't simple however because there was such a mess of debris.

"It was very tough to put it out because walls were collapsed on walls. The building was totally destroyed. It was lots of digging and it took a while."

Firefighters stayed long enough to make sure the fire was totally out before handing it over to the owner at about 8 a.m.

Martin, who was a volunteer firefighter for 10 years in Rossland and has been a career fireman for 20 years since, said the fire was an excellent example of the benefits of a regional fire service that unites several local fire companies.

One of the problems faced by the department was a lack of water at the site. Three water tenders were required to haul water from a hydrant on the old Cascade Highway.

"That's part of rural firefighing," Martin said, "and the good thing about regional firefighting. We can call on other companies when we're short and need help, either material or men."

Rossland's fire engines were also on scene, one actively fighting the fire and one to shuttle firefighters.

Although the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Martin said it was fortunate that it happened at this time of the year.

"We would have been in for a long weekend if this happened in July."

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