New Castle News

Closer Look

April 22, 2012

Amish plan to rebuild sawmill following blaze

NEW CASTLE — New Wilmington fire chief Dick Wilson said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Amish sawmill destroyed Friday reopens next week.

Sawmill owner Steve Byler operated the business at Fayette-Neshannock Falls Road for more than 20 years. After discussions with the owner Wilson said damages exceed $100,000.

“That is how he made his livelihood,” Wilson said, “And they don’t have insurance.”

But the Amish community has a team spirit, he continued. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re already cutting lumber and making plans to rebuild. They could reopen in a week or so.”

Within hours of the fire, members of the Amish community arrived at Byler’s property to help to clear out debris of the shop’s remains. The 50-by-100-foot structure burned to the ground.

The state police fire marshal investigated Friday.  

“We’re calling the fire accidental,” he said. “We know that it started in one corner of the building, but we may never know what ignited this.”

Wilson said the building had no electricity, but old batteries and cans of fuel were stored inside.

Someone noticed the fire shortly before 4 a.m., and several Amish neighbors tried to put it out before the fire trucks arrived, but the roof already had caved in.

About 30 firefighters worked at the scene until about 7:30 a.m., he said.

Wilson praised the volunteer departments of Volant and Pulaski, Neshannock and Hickory townships, who assisted.

“The mutual aid group at the northwest end of the county works well together,” he said. “We train together and we know what everyone will do. They’re all good neighbors.”

He added that while the local firemen fought the sawmill fire, the Mercer Borough fire department sent men and a truck to the New Wilmington fire hall to cover for that department, and Springfield Township, Mercer County, sent a truck and firefighters to Volant.

“We had a lot of trucks tied up at the fire,” he said, adding, “We do the same for them when they are tied up.”

The chief said about 100,000 gallons of water were hauled to the scene. Tankers extracted water from the pond in the front yard of Dr. Jens Jorgensen, who lives about two miles from the sawmill.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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