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Chambers County lumber company recovering after massive fire

The fire left millions of dollars of damage to the saw mill.
Updated: Apr. 24, 2021 at 2:10 PM CDT
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CHAMBERS COUNTY, Ala. (WTVM) - The East Alabama Lumber Company in Lafayette is working to recover millions of dollars of damage to machinery and supplies.

Those in the lumber industry say it’s going to take some time to get back to normal.

It was a day full of smoke and clouds in Lafayette Friday.

“It’s going to be smoky in Lafayette for a while, for a couple of days at least,” said Lt. Mark McManus of the Lafayette Fire Department.

It’s all due to an air compressor exploding in the saw mill at the East Alabama Lumber Company, causing a massive fire to engulf the building.

“In our initial arrivement, we did have like heavy, heavy smoke coming from this building and a few egress of fire exiting the building itself,” said McManus.

“I haven’t been in there, but what I’m hearing, it pretty much destroyed all the machinery. Some of it might be able to be salvaged and rebuilt, but most of it probably wont,” said Wayne Hanson, an employee of East Alabama Lumber Company.

Around 30 employees work in the saw mill, including Hanson who’s worked there for 20 years. He said he’s devastated to see the damage.

“I just couldn’t believe it, because it was fine when I left. It was just a shock. I had to come down here and see it,” said Hanson.

“This is about an 18-month to two-year rebuild. It’s not something you’re going to do in just a few months,” said Jim Abney, owner of Abney Company.

Abney, an independent contractor, worked on the rebuilding of the lumber company in the 90s and 2000s after previous fire damage. He said the saw mill is the heart of the company as well as the most expensive.

“Everything’s going to stop. You can’t run anything, you can’t make anything until you get your gang saw back up and your re-saws, and your twin bands,” said Abney.

With lumber skyrocketing in price, Abney said the damage will be quite expensive.

“Lumber’s as high as it’s been in my lifetime. It’s like up 170 percent in the last 15 months,” said Abney.

“We’ve just got to put our trust in the Lord, and he’ll guide us through this. And that’s the only thing I can do,” said Hanson.

Abney said his company will soon be able to provide East Alabama Lumber with used machinery to continue production in the next coming months.

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