Cause of Hoonah mill fire still under investigation

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2010

A fire marshal from the state Department of Public Safety said Sunday he is unsure why the Icy Straits Lumber & Milling, Inc. exploded Thursday morning.

Rob Bishop /  For The Juneau Empire
Rob Bishop / For The Juneau Empire

"It is an anomaly for this mill to have caught fire," the Department of Public Safety's Deputy Fire Marshall Bob Plum said from Hoonah Saturday afternoon. "Anomaly may not be the right word. Things just haven't added up and we can't figure out why this happened."

Plum, who flew to the site Friday, said there was no power to the building at the time of the incident and it was not occupied.

"I am still poking around," Plum said. "I really don't know much. The cause and origin are still undetermined."

Plum said the first thing he tries to do at investigations is get a handle on what type of work was done at the site, what the building or business was used for. Then he tries to focus in on where the possible flash points could be and narrow them down, looking for anything not easily explained.

Plum asked for agents from the Anchorage field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms to aid in the investigation and they were expected on site Saturday.

The Thursday morning explosion and subsequent fire destroyed the main building of the mill Thursday morning. The Hoonah fire and police departments responded late Thursday evening to a subsequent flare-up at the site.

"The fire department contained the fire again swiftly," Hoonah police chief John Milan said. "The flames weren't very big but we were concerned that the wind would cause it to spread."

Fire crews stayed on site into Friday.

"There is a little bit of sawdust that is continuing to smolder," Plum said. "We are letting that burn itself out."

• Contact Klas Stolpe at

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