On September 2nd, the Mill Fire started in Siskiyou County, destroying 118 structures and killing two people near Lake Shastina. Now, the logging mill suspected of starting the fire is investigating its role and planning a fund of up to $50 million for the residents impacted.
Roseburg Forest Products Co., the operators of the veneer mill at the center of the Mill Fire, is investigating whether the possible failure of a water-spraying machine from a third-party equipment manufacturer led to the ignition of the fire. The company anticipates its investigation into the cause of the fire will be completed within the next two weeks and will then allow impacted residents to make claims with their insurer.
“We know the fire has been devastating to Weed, and we are especially saddened by the loss of life,” Hillan said. “It has had a severe impact on our cherished neighbors, and on us, with three of our team members among those who lost their homes.”
Roseburg’s mill produces its own electric power in a co-generation facility fueled by wood remnants. The generator ejects ash after consuming the wood; that ash is sprayed with cooling water, using a third-party-supplied machine. Roseburg is investigating whether the third-party machine failed to cool the ash sufficiently which thereby ignited the fire.
“The process for handling the ash and removing it safely depends on the proper functioning of the third-party machinery, so it’s logical to investigate the potential failure of that machinery as the proximate cause of the fire,” said Pete Hillan, spokesman for Roseburg Forest Products Co. “Roseburg is working closely with state and local investigators to determine if this is the case.”
Although the origin of the fire is still to be determined, Roseburg plans to proactively provide up to $50 million for a community restoration fund for the initial recovery needs of impacted residents. The fund will assist residents with temporary shelter, medical supplies and treatment, transportation, clothing, food and water, and childcare/day care services.
Roseburg will make a further announcement on Sept. 14 with additional details about how residents can make their claims and what information and documentation they will need to gather and present to the adjusters.
“We are deeply grateful to the first responders for their quick and ongoing actions that doubtless prevented this fire from becoming even worse,” Hillan said. “Even as they continue their work, we at Roseburg are committed to working closely with our community to ensure all of us recover as quickly as possible.”