The company that owns a burned out sawmill in Timmins says early assessments show catastrophic damage, but Eacom Timber says it's committed to sawmilling again in the northern city.
Mike O'Blenis, president of forest operations for Eacom Timber in Ontario, said the company did not lose all of the buildings on the site, "which can only be positive."
He added that assessing the damage will take weeks. There will be downtime for mill workers — but just how long isn't known yet. The employees who harvest and transport wood will continue to work.
O'Blenis said Eacom considers the mill in Timmins one of its flagship producers.
"There's a lot of history behind this mill and sawmilling in the area," said O’Blenis, who also worked for the mill's former owner, Domtar.
Fire crews still dousing hot spots
He noted that the company’s "main priority [Tuesday] is a full assessment of the damage, trying to decide what exactly our options are. I can say the company is fully committed to Timmins and … sawmilling in Timmins."
Fire crews were called back to the sawmill Tuesday morning to continue dousing the fire that started Sunday night.
The workforce at Eacom has lived through shutdowns, layoffs and ownership changes.
The mill, located on the edge of the Mattagami river, has been in operation for decades.
"It has definitely been a huge player in the Timmins economy, from an employment perspective [and] from investments in the community," said Tom Laughren, the mayor of Timmins. "It is one we are very proud of."
Roughly 120 people work the mill. About 150 more provide services such as logging and trucking.
Guy Bourgouin, a spokesperson with the United Steelworkers, the union that represents the workers, said a key piece of equipment called a planer was not damaged. That means there will be work for a couple more weeks while wood reserves at the site are processed.
"I believe it is one of the most profitable mills for the group Eacom," Bourgouin said. "So hopefully we will rebuild."
Eacom purchased the Timmins mill from Domtar in 2010. It owns several other saw mills in Ontario, including Nairn Centre, Gogama and Elk Lake.