Mill Workers: Road Ahead After Fire

The owners of the Pembroke mill destroyed by fire last week say they’re optimistic they can find new jobs for all the affected workers.

26 people worked at the Heideman & Sons planing mill on Boundary Road that burned down last Wednesday evening.

Vice-President Kris Heideman says the plant was scheduled to shut down operations sometime in the near future.

He says the company has told the workers that the Pembroke facility would eventually be closing but says the sudden loss has a major impact on the company and all of those affected.

"We met with everyone and explained the steps we're be taking to try to get them back to work as soon as possible", Heideman told Star 96.7.

The Pembroke facility included a planing mill, with manufacturing, packaging and distribution.

“It’s a significant part of our company’s operations to complement the two sawmills at our Eganville site”, explained Heideman.

But, he adds, they are now working on plans to offer the affected workers new positions at their soon to be expanded Eganville-area operation.

"We're undergoing a major expansion at our Eganville site, so all of our operations are going to be consolidated onto one site eventually".

"At this point, we're very optimistic that we'll have all 26 redeployed within the company somewhere", he added.

"That's good news, considering how things looked the other night".

Thankful For Response

Heideman adds the company is grateful for all of the first responders, volunteers and others who stepped in to help at the scene of the fire.

“The first concern was obviously to ensure all of our employees had evacuated safely”, he said.

He says many people played a role in dealing with the very serious situation that was unfolding.

“The firefighters, police and paramedics that were there that night”, he said.

“Ottawa River Power and Hydro One had a lot to contend with that night as well, under less than ideal conditions, as well as KI, helping us out with their parking lot that night”.

He says colleagues in the forest industry have been stepping up to help in the wake of the fire.

 “We’re very fortunate, in our industry, we have some tremedous peers who’ve reached out to offer their support and assistance”, he noted.

“Following the concern for our employees, our next concern was to ensure our customers were looked after until we get back up and running ourselves”.

Investigation Ongoing

Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the fire continues.

The damage at the site was extensive and the Fire Marshal hasn’t indicated yet if there’s enough evidence to pinpoint a cause or if there are any theories yet.

On Friday, Pembroke Fire Chief Dan Herback said the examination of the remains at the site was continuing, and couldn’t say how long that process would take.

Officials have said they believe the fire originated somewhere near a hopper at the back of the site, but haven’t been able to say how it started.