Owners of Whitsell mill want to rebuild

UPDATE: Officials with South Lane Fire and Rescue said the fire at the Whitsell mill caused an estimated $15 million dollars in damage.

Posted: May 29, 2018 11:23 AM
Updated: May 30, 2018 1:22 PM

UPDATE: Officials with South Lane Fire and Rescue said the fire at the Whitsell mill caused an estimated $15 million dollars in damage, but that's a preliminary estimate and the number could go higher.

Fire Chief John Wooten said they're still investigating all possible causes and they should wrap up their investigation by the end of the week.

Wooten said he talked to the owners and they said they want to rebuild.

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SAGINAW, Ore. -- The investigation into what caused the fire at the Whitsell Mill in Saginaw started Tuesday.

Officials with South Lane Fire and Rescue said the investigation could take several days, but they are hoping to identify the cause of the fire quickly.

Fire Chief John Wooten said with the structure being so large -- spanning 180,000 square feet -- they will start by looking at what is left of the structure and piles. He said they will start looking in the areas where the most damage was caused to try and find where the fire originated.

"There's so much damage out here, most of the evidence is going to be burned up," said Chief Wooten. "So it's the little things you find, that needle in the haystack, that can give you that clue and get you going in the right direction."

Chief Wooten said the investigation will be a process. In addition to looking at the damage, they will be interviewing the owners and employees, and they will look at video from the incident and take photos of the damage.

He said he appreciates the community's support but is encouraging people to avoid the area.

"Please don't try to access the property at any point. It is an active scene," said Chief Wooten. "We appreciate everyone's support. We appreciate their interest. We appreciate their right to know, but we also have a job to do, and for their safety, we are just asking everyone to continue staying away."

South Lane Fire and Rescue will be assisted by other agencies, but officials were unable to comment on which ones.

At this point, the fire suppression effort is mainly finished, but some crews will still be out patrolling the area to keep an eye out for spot fires.

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