Fire levels Fort St. James sawmill

A fire destroyed a small Fort St. James sawmill Thursday morning.

Northern Forest Products Ltd., a cant mill in the 3000 block Tachie Road, across from the community's ski hill, was engulfed by the time firefighters were on the scene, Fort St. James fire department chief Mike Navratil said.

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In all, 16 firefighters responded, he said, when a resident living on the other side of Stuart Lake called 911 at about 6 a.m. to report a fire ball.

Firefighters were at the location for about four hours where they kept the blaze from spreading to a nearby fuel tank. No employees were on the mill site at the time and no one was injured.

"It was burning for quite awhile," Navratil said.

About 10 people are employed at the mill, said Jeff Holland, the safety manager for the mill's owner, KDL Group, also based in Fort St. James.

"For lack of a better word, we're still in a bit of shock," Holland said Friday. "It just happened, it was yesterday."

Cause of the fire remained undetermined as of Friday and Holland said investigators from WorkSafe B.C. were the scene.

Holland said the mill's footprint is about 100 by 40 feet and and is about three-quarters enclosed with a dry sort at the open end. The mill is used to square logs for shipment.

"Now we're doing clean up, we're securing the scene and just trying to gather as much information as we can and then we'll start to take the next steps as to how we move forward," Holland said.

Home to about 1,350 people, Fort St. James is located 152 kilometres west of Prince George.

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