“One Fire Touches Many”: Cyr Lumber rebuilds after sawmill fire
In November of 2020 a fire broke out at the Cyr Lumber sawmill located in Milton. While thankfully no one was hurt, the fire did completely destroy the sawmill. Since then, the company has been working to rebuild and is nearing a return to operation. Family member and mill employee Karen Cyr talked about the sawmill’s recovery over the past year on behalf of the Cyr family.
Investigation after the fire determined that the fire started in the log carriage of the mill. It is suspected that a lubrication hose blew and the set works motor brake ignited the flames. The fire occurred at the end of day as the workers were finishing up their work. The sawyer spotted the flame and tried to extinguish it, however the fire flared up again and it was not able to be contained. The building was evacuated and fire department called, however by the time they arrived it was too late to save the mill.
The fire destroyed or damaged most of the mill’s equipment. Some pieces were able to be saved and rebuilt, but most equipment has had to be replaced. Through auctions Cyr Lumber has been able to replace the equipment that was lost. The building was entirely reconstructed from the ground up. The reconstruction process has taken a little over a year as finding materials for the rebuild was an issue for much of the past year and insurance recovery took time also. It was expensive to rebuild due to the price of materials and electrical work, and replacing equipment. However, the new building does have some new perks. The new mill is larger than the previous one and it features steel paneling and energy efficient lighting.
Since the fire, Cyr Lumber has still been able to operate though on a much smaller scale. Cyr’s wholesale and retail side of the business has continued. They have been buying some rough pine from other local mills for use at their facilities. The company’s dry kilns and planer mill are separate from the sawmill so they have been able to continue manufacturing some
product. The Cyr family is thankful they have not had to lay off any of their employees because of the fire. Several have helped with the mill’s rebuild while the others continue manufacturing. The Cyrs said of their employees, “We are thankful to have a great crew that has been with us for years.”
The fire was not out of neglect or mismanagement in any form. Cyr Lumber had a fire plan in place and all equipment was cleaned daily. It was just an occurrence that happens in the industry sometimes. Karen said, “Sometimes things happen, no matter how diligent you are, especially towards the end of the day when equipment has been running and sawdust has
accumulated. It is important that we remind ourselves to be on the lookout for potential dangers in the manufacturing process and make sure that equipment is maintained on a regular basis.” The Cyrs recommend that other sawmills have a fire plan, have safety meetings with employees, and clean/inspect equipment regularly. Having these measures in place prevented anyone from getting hurt in the Cyr fire.
The burning of the sawmill has affected more than just Cyr Lumber. Without the sawmill being in operation Cyr has been unable to produce lumber byproducts such as sawdust, bark, and wood chips. The inability to make these products has been detrimental not just to Cyr’s income, but to local farmers who come to them for animal bedding and truck drivers who haul those products. “One fire touches many,” as Karen stated.
Sawmills play a key part in the forest industry. They not only create lumber and other wood products, but they contribute to a healthier environment in multiple ways. Wood products store carbon, the manufacturing process uses less fossil fuel-based energy, and some byproducts of the manufacturing process are used as a source of renewable bioenergy. Karen shared, “Our
forests, when properly managed, continue to regenerate. Forests provide job opportunities and income in the form of logging, trucking, milling, the sale of sawdust and shavings for farm animals, and bark mulch for landscaping.” So, without the mill functioning fully the past year, many in the area have felt its impact in different ways.
It has been a long road to get to this point but Cyr Lumber continues to rebuild from the fire and is nearing a return to full operation. The Cyrs hope to open the new sawmill in the late winter or early spring.