Firefighters from Malakwa and Sicamous attend a structural fire at Eagle River Industries. The blaze was contained to one building on the mill site.

Fire a financial setback for mill manager

Ray Hansen didn’t lose his job to a recent fire at Elite Forest Products, but he did lose a big part of his livelihood.

  • Thu Nov 19th, 2015 5:00pm
  • News

Ray Hansen didn’t lose his job to a recent fire at Elite Forest Products, but he did lose a big part of his livelihood.

On the morning of Thursday, Nov. 12, Hansen was in his workshop on the Malakwa mill site. He and a welder were working on a loader.

Pamela Martin, Hansen’s spouse, said the two were back at Hansen’s onsite residence having lunch when the fire began.

“Apparently a flare sparked up some sawdust and the loader caught fire,” said Martin. “Ray had time to actually go through the front doors to open up the back doors because there was a pump in the back. We have our own fire pumps… By the time he got the back door unlocked, he couldn’t get back through. It was that quick.”

Among the combustible contents of the shed – including hundreds of gallons of oil, according to Martin – were Hansen’s tools, approximately $50,000 worth, all lost in the blaze. Neither the shop nor the tools were insured.

“Nobody was allowed in the shop but Ray, it was his personal shop to invent his things that he invents,” said Martin. “That’s what makes him so good as a manager – instead of buying new, he built.”

Pamela’s daughter, Cristina Martin, has set up a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/malakwafire) to raise funds needed to replace the tools.

“Their financial stability mostly came from Raymond contracting himself as a welder, builder, contracting, basically a jack of all trades…,” says Cristina on GoFundMe. “Unfortunately living on the mill site, but having no ownership to it, means that they have no coverage or insurance for their belongings, and now that the mill has been sold they were in the middle of moving. His main source of income has been demolished along with their spirits.”

No one was injured in the fire, and the mill – which has ceased operations for the winter – was otherwise left unscathed.

During her call to 911, Pamela reported Hansen and the welder were unaccounted for. But she said they were located as soon as she got off the phone.

The Malakwa Volunteer Fire Department received the page just before noon, and Fire Chief Joanne Held said the first fire truck was at the mill at 12:15. While en route, Held said the Sicamous Volunteer Fire Department was paged to provide mutual aid.

Upon arrival, it was apparent the old, wood shed was lost, so all efforts went into containing the blaze, preventing it from spreading to another nearby structure and a sawdust pile.

“The main concern once we arrived… was to protect the exposures and stop it from getting to the sawdust pile, which was about 100 feet away from the building,” said Held.

Firefighters were on the scene until about 6 p.m.

This was the second major fire in the area of Craigellachie for the Malakwa and Sicamous fire departments. Both were involved in putting out the Skyline Truck Stop fire 10 days prior.