Future uncertain for Miramichi lumber mill, woodlands manager says

Future uncertain for Miramichi lumber mill, woodlands manager says

The future is uncertain for the former Miramichi Lumber Products mill after an overnight fire destroyed the building this week.

"It's a big loss for our community, and it's 100 jobs for the Miramichi that will probably never happen," said Hal Raper, chief financial officer and woodlands manager for Maritime Lumber. 

A fire broke out around 6:30 p.m. behind the shut-down mill on Monday, and firefighters were able to put it out quickly. 

But a second fire broke out almost three hours later, destroying the building.

Raper was at home watching the federal leaders debate when he received a phone call about the fire. He believes the cause was arson. 

"I came down and the middle of it was engulfed in flames," he said. 

It took firefighters four hours to get the second fire under control.

Costly to replace

Raper said it would cost about $15 million to replace the building and its equipment, which was owned by Miramichi Lumber. 

"Obviously, there's no salvage value in the equipment other than maybe for a little bit of scrap," he said. 

The mill was closed in 2015 after a fire broke out in the building's electrical room. When the mill was operating, it employed 140 people.

The mill was insured at the time of the 2015 fire but not for the most recent one. The company couldn't use the insurance payout from that fire because the province claimed the money under the terms of a 2009 loan guarantee. 

Still, before this week's fire, Raper hoped the mill would get up and running again in the near future. 

Not the first time

Since the closure, people have been breaking into the mill, stealing copper and damaging the building, Raper said.

Submitted by IAFF Local 5087 Miramichi Professional Firefighters Association

"We had locks on the doors, we had no trespassing signs on all the buildings, but people continue to trespass and continue to come in."    

Raper said many people were also caught.

"They just kept coming back. And coming back. And coming back."

The Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause of the fire.