Sawmill near Oakland burns (with video)

Published 7:37 am Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Glenville and London firefighter put water on burning wood at Len's Wood Products north of Oakland Wednesday afternoon. - Eric Johnson/

By Sarah Stultz

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OAKLAND — Firefighters from  Freeborn County fire departments and Austin Fire Department battled a blaze Wednesday afternoon north of Oakland after a sawmill shed caught fire and spread in heavy wind to large piles of logs and cut lumber.

The sawmill, at Len’s Wood Products, 22726 890th Ave., is three-fourths of a mile north of Oakland. It is owned by Len and Barb Meyer and has been in operation at least 15 years.

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Doug Johnson, investigator with the Freeborn County Fire Investigation Team, estimated at least $500,000 in damages. The sawmill shed is a total loss, and a couple of the other buildings on the property also received damages. The amount of wood lost in the blaze has not been determined.

The Meyer’s house and barn, just feet in front of the area of the blaze, did not appear to sustain any damage.

No one was injured.

Johnson said the cause of the fire is also still undetermined, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office has been called into investigate, though no foul play is believed to have been involved.

“This is devastating for them,” said Nancy Hanson, who lives north of Meyer’s property on 890th Avenue.

The fire was reported just after 2 p.m. Wednesday and firefighters shot water at the blaze for three to four hours from all directions. Fire trucks were coming and going as they were being refilled with water.

Freeborn County Emergency Management Director Mark Roche said crews finally started packing up around 6:15 p.m. Hollandale firefighters were scheduled to be at the scene through the night, and then the investigation was planned to continue Thursday once daylight arrived.

Roche said fire departments from Myrtle, London, Hollandale, Hayward, Albert Lea Township, Albert Lea, Glenville, Clarks Grove, Geneva, Austin, Conger, Emmons and Blooming Prairie responded.

Just before 5 p.m., there were northwest winds at 13 mph with gusts up to 23 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The high wind gusts made it easier for the fire to spread.

As the firefighters battled the blaze, a few small sporadic fires in nearby fields also developed, but they were quickly extinguished.

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