Sawmill destroyed in two-alarm fire Electrical glitch may be the cause

December 23, 1992|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Staff Writer Staff writer Traci M. Johnson contributed to this article.

A two-alarm fire sent flames and smoke hundreds of feet into the evening sky as it destroyed a sawmill on Klee Mill Road about 4:55 p.m. yesterday.

The fire, in one of two sawmills at Hoff Lumber Co., brought equipment from the Winfield, Sykesville, Gamber, Liberty Road, Westminster and West Friendship fire companies to battle the blaze in the 100-foot by 35-foot open building.

Flames could be seen up to 10 miles away before firefighters got the blaze under control at 5:43 p.m., after running hoses from underground water tanks through pumper trucks to the fire.

No one was injured, officials said.

Charles Hoff Jr., one of the owners of the lumber mill, estimated the loss at more than $250,000 for equipment in the burned building, but said he could not give a firm estimate of the total damage.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Al Ward said the cause was accidental, with the fire apparently sparked by an electrical malfunction.

Mr. Hoff said the mill closed at 4 p.m., and most of the 20 employees went home, but several, including him, remained to clean up and "just talk."

Mr. Hoff said one of the workers heard an explosion shortly after 4:30 p.m. and, looking in the direction of the noise, saw the sawmill building in flames.

About the same time, a state police trooper on radar patrol on Klee Mill Road just north of the lumber yard also saw the blaze and told his dispatcher that the building "is totally involved."

The sawmill, the newest of the two at the site, is entirely electrical, Mr. Hoff said. The other is diesel operated.

Electric wires leading to the burning building dropped to the ground and remained live until a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. employee arrived and cut off the power.

A utility pole that carried electricity into the burning building also was a casualty. It caught fire, but firefighters, fearing danger from live wires, would not spray water on it until the current was cut off.

One of the two employees who was still at the plant when the fire started told Mr. Hoff he smelled something different, not like wood, burning immediately before the men found the building in flames, the owner said.

The sawmill contained five saws, the largest 60 inches in diameter, as well as log-turning devices and other equipment.

Mr. Hoff said the lumber yard is a family business he operates with four of his brothers. Several other relatives also work there, he said.

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