A major fire that began just before 6 a.m. PT in a south Vancouver sawmill has been brought under control.

Three workers at Mainland Sawmills on Yukon Street near Kent Avenue were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Fire officials say upward of 70 employees were on the site when the blaze broke out.

Mainland Sawmills just before 6 a.m. to fight the third alarm fire.

The fire quickly moved up through the centre of the mill to the third floor and was burning through the roof by the time firefighters arrived. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Mill worker Parv Uppal said he could smell the smoke from blocks away when he was on his way to work this morning. 

"The alarm was going off. People were running around, you could see flames," said Uppal.

He said employees that work overnight were luckily to get out alive.

"There was smoke everywhere. A couple of guys had to escape through the roof," he said. 

Firefighters battle aggressive fire at sawmill0:31

Vancouver fire Assistant Chief Kevin Wilson said initial reports are that a burning acetylene tank sparked the fire in the basement.

It quickly moved up through the centre of the mill to the third floor and was burning through the roof by the time firefighters arrived.

Wilson said firefighters had difficulty finding their way around the large mill because of heavy smoke.

Three workers at Mainland Sawmills on Yukon Street near Kent Avenue were treated at the scene for sm

Three workers at the sawmills were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. They all walked to the ambulance, were treated and sent to hospital. Two of them are seen returning to the site in white gowns. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

'Multiple interior attack crews'

"We fought the fire from different sides and had multiple interior attack crews," he said.

Wilson said there were concerns due to multiple oil and grease reservoirs on site.

"We were worried, environmentally, if that got down into the river [there] would be an explosion and environmental damage."

Fireboats were also brought in to get at the fire from the Fraser River.

Mainland Sawmills on Yukon Street near Kent Avenue

The area around the mill was flooded with water. Some parts saw 4 feet of water after firefighters spent hours fighting the flames. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

'Out of work'

Wilson said there is extensive damage to multiple areas of the mill's interior.

A crane tower in the mill is of particular concern due to an extreme potential for collapse. 

A crane tower in the sawmill was of huge concern for firefighters because of its potential to collap

A crane tower in the sawmill was of huge concern for firefighters because of its risk of collapse. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

t's not yet known when or if employees of the mill will be able to return to work.

"Who knows, but everybody is out of work right now," said Corey Casselmen, who has been working at the mill for a few months. 

The mill employs roughly 150 people. 

 

With files from GP Mendoza and Farrah Merali