SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Employees of the Springfield Plywood and Veneer Mill spent Friday watching their former site of work as crews continued to mop up the fire. As the company works to go over its insurance policies, 250 employees are wondering what they are going to do in the meantime without work.
“It was just heartbreaking to see the fire because I was afraid somebody might have gotten killed because I had heard that there had been explosions,” said employee Tom DeHaven.
Employees say their biggest concern Thursday was if anyone was trapped inside as the mill went up in flames. But the company says everyone made it out safely, and employees and their families were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Next on the minds of employees? Not having a job.
David Leach, also an employee, is a dad of two. On Friday he and his family went to the mill site to see what was left of it.
“I have a lot more fear since I have kids,” he said. “If it was just me, I wouldn’t stress it too much. But you know, we’ve got to take care of these guys. Got to get them food and clothes.”
Others, such as 60-year-old DeHaven, wonder what job opportunities are ahead.
“Most people don’t want to hire people that’s 60 years old,” he said. “There’s too many young people looking for work.”
He says he will be able to file for social security within the next few years, but in the meantime, he still wants to work.
“It’s like getting the rug yanked out from under you and so it’s going to be tough on everybody. This might be the last place I work. I don’t know.”
The company says it is having a meeting on Monday, and will then discuss possibilities for employees. It says rebuilding could cost up to $100 million if it had to replace everything. The company estimates that it lost about 80% of its facility. It will spend the next few months going over its insurance policy to see if rebuilding is an option. Meanwhile, it also runs two other mills in Roseburg and Glendale, and will see if there are openings available for employees in Springfield.
In the meantime, Commissioner Sid Leiken asked the Economic Development staff to begin coordinating with the state to put together a rapid response team to work with the company to provide options for employees.
Work Force Lane is also available to help employees file for unemployment.