UPDATE: 1:50 p.m. Tolko Industries confirmed Friday afternoon that firefighters remain at the Lakeview Mill in Williams Lake where a fire broke out at the sawmill about 6:20 p.m. Thursday.
“As their efforts continue, we want to inform employees that the mill — sawmill and planer — will not operate today,” communications advisor Janice Lockyer said. “Supervisors will be contacting employees directly to share additional details as they become available.”
Lockyer said she could not comment on the extent of the damage to the structure at this time, but once the fire is extinguished and there is an examination of the affected areas by a structural engineer, Tolko will be able to share more information.
“We anticipate this assessment will occur over the weekend and into next week,” Lockyer said.
Expressing gratitude for the effort of everyone involved with combatting and containing the fire, Lockyer said crews have done exceptional work containing and mitigating the impact of the blaze.
She also praised the onsite employees for their “calm and quick efforts” Thursday evening, noting the site evacuation went smoothly and there were no injuries.
“Our priority now is to ensure the fire is out, that our employees understand what happens next, and that we can begin the work to put a recovery plan in place to return the mill to operations,” Lockyer said.
Tolko’s Lakeview Division employs approximately 175 employees.
Emergency crews continue to battle a fire at Tolko’s Lakeview sawmill in Williams Lake Friday morning that erupted Thursday evening around 6:30 p.m.
Original story: The 150 Mile House Volunteer Fire Department arrived Thursday evening to assist the Williams Lake Fire Department, already on scene.
At around 10:30 p.m. Thursday the company’s communications advisor Janice Lockyer confirmed in a written statement that there was an active fire, but that no one was injured and the safety of the employees was the top priority.
“At this time, the situation remains active and the extent of the damage is unknown,” Lockyer said.
United Steelworkers Union Local 2017 first vice president Paul French said workers at the mill were all sent home at about 8 p.m. Thursday and the power was cut off.
“I don’t want to speculate, but I know the sawmill got scorched pretty good,” French said Friday morning. “I haven’t heard anything from the company yet, but I think they are trying to assess what the heck is going on and how badly the equipment got burnt.”
Logging trucks are going in there Friday morning, and there are people on site, he added.
The fire comes after a summer that saw the company’s operations curtailed for several weeks and timber stands impacted because of the wildfires.
“It’s not good,” French said of the mill fire, noting about 180 unionized employees work in the mill. “A lot of people’s lives depend on the mill.”
As of Friday morning the Tribune had not received an update from Tolko.