Wind whipped a smoldering fire into an eight-hour blaze, destroying the entire inventory of a lumber mill Sunday.
About 11:30 a.m., the Richfield and Sigurd fire departments responded to the Stoltz Aspen Mill and found fire burning within a large pile of slabs, Sevier County Sheriff's Sgt. Bill Brewer said. Fire and smoke swirled over a 2-acre-long, 40-foot-high pile of aspen sawdust and an adjacent pile of tree ends sold as firewood."It was like a dense fog," said Sevier County Sheriff's Capt. C.N. Page.
Apparently, the fire had started in a pile of chips south of the main office. The chips had been smoldering when sudden winds caused them to burst into flames, which then spread to the main office, Brewer said.
After several hours of trying to contain the blaze, a large air tanker from Arizona made several passes dropping fire retardant on hot spots of the lumber compound, Brewer said. Fire crews from Salina, Aurora, Monroe, Koosharem and Richfield also worked on the blaze.
Firefighters saved two milling buildings and hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment from damage, but their efforts to save the finished lumber were hampered by a lack of water at the mill complex.
The fire was contained about 8 p.m. The cause of the fire is believed to be internal combustion.