Whitsell mill fire investigation wrapping up

Chief John Wooten of South Lane County Fire and Rescue said he's spoken to the owners of the mill, and they plan to rebuild.

Posted: May 30, 2018 6:12 PM

SAGINAW, Ore. -- The investigation into the Whitsell mill fire could wrap up by the end of the week according to Chief John Wooten of South Lane County Fire and Rescue.

Chief Wooten said they have been interviewing witnesses, employees and business owners. At this time, they have not ruled out foul play. He said he's spoken to the owners of the mill, and they plan to rebuild.

"The way I look at is the plant was shut down, and it's a holiday weekend. Nobody was supposed to be there, and you have a big fire,” Chief Wooten said. “So you have to dig a little deeper, and you have to be diligent.”

He said the fire burned so hot it destroyed the building down to the foundation, making it easier for them to find the point of origin. Chief Wooten currently estimates the damage to the mill to be at least $15 million but says that number could rise. He said they're trying to figure out what businesses were on-site. So far they've identified two, Whitsell Manufacturing and Woodguard, but have heard conflicting reports that there could be more.

"That's all part of the investigation process," Chief Wooten said. "Once we figure out exactly who has an interest, who was operating, if there were any co-companies operating there or people leasing space like Woodguard. They're obviously impacted and have dollar loss.

Chief Wooten believes 100 employees lost their jobs because of the fire. KEZI 9 News reached out again to both Whitsell Manufacturing and Woodguard, but both declined to comment.

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