July 6, 2005-Mill fire a total loss: Plant
fire idles 290 employees
SUTHERLIN — Only the blackened tangle of machinery
remained this morning at the destroyed Murphy Plywood plant,
with some small fires burning in the debris and hazy smoke
still clouding the burnt remains.
A fire that began in the roof of the Sutherlin plant Tuesday
afternoon quickly spread to engulf several buildings on
the property, destroying 250,000 square feet of the plant,
said John Murphy, one of the plant owners. He estimated
damage to be upward of $30 million.
A warehouse that contains plywood ready to be shipped was
salvaged, along with the stacks of veneer in the yard.
A faulty motor inside one of the dryers used to dry veneer
likely caused the fire, which began at 12:30 p.m., Murphy
said. Fire departments and police are continuing to investigate
the cause today.
A couple of Murphy Plywood employees looked in awe this
morning at collapsed walls, remnants of machinery and mere
frames of the giant dryers once used to dry veneer that
would be made into plywood.
They thought about the jobs that had been destroyed along
with the plant.
“It’s hard when you have kids. What can you
do?” said Iain Wiseman, who worked at the plant for
2 1/2 years and has three children, one who lives with him
in Sutherlin. “I could barely survive on what I made
The plant, which converts thin sheets of veneer into thick
boards of plywood, employs 290 people, 65 of whom were working
when the fire started at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
John Murphy, one of the plant’s owners, isn’t
sure if he’ll rebuild.
“We’re going to regroup and come up with a
strategy for our future,” he said.
Tim Howell was grading at the time the fire started. Thin
sheets of veneer are fed through one of four giant dryers
the size of a couple of train cars, and Howell was among
those who sorted through the sheets when they came out.
From there, the sheets are transferred to another warehouse
before being put together to make plywood.