NEW: Sawmill Fire Investigation Widens


Firefighters were still putting out hot spots on Thursday afternoon, at a sawmill that burned to the ground in Pembroke on Wednesday evening.

The blaze at Lavern Heideman & Sons on Boundary Road, just west of Paul Martin Drive, first broke out around 8 last night, sending an orange glow into the sky that could be seen all around Pembroke, and knocking down a power line that supplies electricity to the city.

The blackout lasted for 10 hours before power was restored just before 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Pembroke Fire Chief Dan Herback says it was an “all hands on deck” battle, all night long, with firefighters up against extreme wind chill values, changing wind directions, and the danger of falling power lines.

"The most important thing you can do is to make sure that the people who respond, and everything around this fire, is protected", Herback told Star 96.7 late Thursday morning.

"That's really what we did through the night.  We had hydro wires that were down in our way, we couldn't get as close to the building as we would've liked to get, we had the wind change direction on us twice, and we had to move our equipment into different places".

"When you stop putting water on it, and then have to move your equipment to another stop just to protect your equipment also, it's a challenge", Herback added.

There were workers on the site when the fire broke out, but everyone managed to get out safely and there were no injuries.

The Fire Marshal’s office joined the investigation at the scene on Thursday afternoon, sending an investigator from Ottawa to work with local fire teams.

It’s believed the fire started somewhere near a hopper at the back of the mill, but Chief Herback says there’s so much damage that it’s possible they may not be able to find enough evidence to figure out how it started.  

"Last time we had a major fire like this, we had a two-day investigation, and it ended up being classified undetermined", Herback said.

"It's due to the major damage.  It's very, very hard to find clues in that kind of damage".

Meanwhile, the company that owns the mill, Laverne Heideman and Sons near Eganville, told Star 96.7 they’re very thankful there were no injuries. 

Company officials expect to put out a more detailed statement later on Thursday.

Heideman has been a part of the Valley forest industry since the 1970s.   

According to their website, they employ about 150 people total across Eastern Ontario and West Quebec. 

They acquired the Pembroke mill from International Lumber in 2014.