'It's devastating': Large fire destroys mill in McBride, east of Prince George

A fire has destroyed a cedar manufacturing mill in the Robson Valley east of Prince George and crews from multiple communities are still fighting the blaze.

It's a major blow to the small village of McBride, which has just over 600 people.

The burn started early in the morning at BKB Cedar Manufacturing in McBride according to company president Raj Basran.

"We're just trying to get our heads around it," he said. "Thank God nobody got hurt."

The fire was first reported around 5:30 a.m. Nobody was working in the mill at the time.

WorkSafeBC spokesperson Scott McCloy said officials have been deployed to offer support, but because no injuries have been reported, it's not clear if they will have a role. 

He said RCMP currently have control of the scene.

'Like losing 1,000 jobs': councillor

BKB is a cedar post and rail manufacturing mill with 35 full-time employees in McBride, making it a key part of the community of just over 600.

"It's devastating," said village councillor Rick Thompson. 

"If you take the size of a community like McBride and you compare it to the size of a community like Prince George, for example, it's like losing 1,000 jobs, relatively speaking."

The opening of BKB in 2013 was some much-needed good news after years of decline in the forest industry, Thompson said.

"Raj created a market for his cedar projects," he explained. "It was producing jobs when other mills were shutting down."

Basran said he's most concerned about the effect the fire will have on his employees and community.

"All the guys who work there have a good team spirt, everything was rock and rolling, we were doing really well with the numbers and everything and then we get hit with this," he said.

"It's not a good situation overall."

Community meeting scheduled

A community meeting is being organized by the Robson Valley Support Society to help anyone affected.

"Everyone's just kind of picking up and doing what they can," said society director Peter Doukakis. 

He said the Red Cross, local banks, and MLA and Jobs Minister Shirley Bond are among those coordinating to ensure everyone facing unemployment is supported.

Thompson said his focus will be working with the province and other agencies to mitigate any negative effects from the fire.

Basran said he has to wait for details about what happened before moving forward, but he hopes to rebuild as soon as possible.

"Absolutely," he said. "That's what this town is all about.​"

With files from Wil Fundal.

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