Plant gets back to work after massive fire - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Plant gets back to work after massive fire

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HAZLEHURST, GA (WTOC) -

Less than 48 hours after a massive fire destroyed parts of Thompson Hardwood's complex, parts of it roared back to life.

Crews began sawing timber inside the mill at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The fire ignited in the warehouse around 7:30 a.m. on Monday and destroyed the 200,000 square foot building and roughly five million board feet of lumber stored for shipment.

The fire spread to an office building where 25 employees worked.

"Our saw mill facilities and chip mill facilities are operational," explained plant manager Steve Johnson.

He said they've used warehouse space in Hazlehurst, temporary office space and shifted some parts of their operation to their parent company's other mill in Jeff Davis County.

"We're 100 percent. We're not all where we want to be. We've relocated office staff. We've relocated our lumber grading staff, but we're operational," he added.

Across town, around 100 employees gathered for a meeting at Hazlehurst's First Baptist Church social hall. The employees were from the areas destroyed by fire.

Company leaders assured them the plant would not shut down and workers would not be sent home. That's reassuring to employees like Corey Rooks, a millwright who saw the fire spread in mere moments.

"At first I worried what would happen," he admitted. "But we're a family. This is people's livelihoods. I'm thankful."

By Wednesday, crews had the fire contained and nearly extinguished. Most of the 50 fire departments who've helped have gone home. The remaining firefighters are monitoring the hot spots to make sure it doesn't ignite again.

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