Massive fire destroys sawmill near Grabill

Flames tower from the Cedar Creek Saw Mill in northeastern Allen County early Wednesday morning. (WANE Photo)
Flames tower from the Cedar Creek Saw Mill in northeastern Allen County early Wednesday morning. (WANE Photo)

GRABILL, Ind. (WANE) – A massive fire has destroyed parts of a sawmill in northeastern Allen County. Crews were still working to clear away rubble around noon on Wednesday and something still appeared to be burning, almost 12 hours after crews responded to the fire.

Firefighters were first notified of the fire by a neighbor around 1:15 Wednesday morning at the Cedar Creek Sawmill. The mill is located at the corner of Page Road and Springfield Center Road. The mill manufactures wood pallets.

Saint Joseph Township Fire Rescue Chief David Ringer said when the first crews arrived one building was already fully engulfed in flames. Winds and flammable materials in and around the building quickly fueled the flames.

Heavy smoke and towering flames at least fifty feet in the air could be seen for miles around.

Ringer said sub-zero temperatures hampered efforts to make a significant impact on the fire.

“We’ve had an issue with valves freezing,” Ringer said. “We’re having trouble getting our tankers refilled to get water back to the scene.”

Every fire department in Allen County was called for tanker assistance around 3:30 a.m. Prior to that, departments from DeKalb and Whitley counties were called as were crews from Hicksville, Ohio and Payne, Ohio. The Air National Guard Fire Department also supplied a tanker.

Fort Wayne fire stations were on standby to assist in other areas of the county where departments are thin with manpower and equipment.

Ringer said at least 80 firefighters from about 15 departments were called in at some point overnight.

Crews were able to save a nearby house, according to Ringer. Firefighters were also able to protect nearby buildings associated with the sawmill.

Diesel and propane tanks near the sawmill were a concern for crews. Ringer said efforts were made to protect them.

The sawmill is filled with wood pallets, plywood, and other equipment. A semi-trailer near the edge of the building was destroyed. Ringer said stacks of pallets 25 feet tall in the center of the mill is what kept the fire burning for so long.

The building closest to Page Road is a heap of rubble. The full scope of damage won’t be visible until daybreak.

As of 5 a.m., the fire was still burning but at a considerably lower intensity than hours earlier.

Crews expect to be at the sawmill well into the morning hours.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Ringer said there have been no injuries. The Saint Joe Township Rehab Bus is on scene to allow firefighters to rest and get warm.

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