Employees at Waldun Forest Products Partnership could be headed back to work sooner than expected after a fire destroyed the Ruskin cedar shake and shingle mill Sunday.
Curtis Walker, a partner with Waldun Forest Products, said the company is considering leasing a mill that is currently closed to maintain production temporarily.
Walker added that he would like the company’s production and quality control staff to operate the mill, if that were to happen.
“We want our guys to be working there,” he said. “We are going to do the best we can to put our people back to work.”
Close to 60 employees are currently out of work as a result of the fire.
The Waldun mill produced close to $150,000 worth of cedar shingles daily in peak production and is one of the largest operations in the shake and shingle industry.
Walker said the company’s healthy inventory will prevent any disruption to customers.
“We don’t plan to slow production,” he said. “We’ll take care of our customers.”
The company is still assessing the amount of damage caused by the fire, but a new plant would likely cost millions.
Walker said no decisions have been made as to the future of the mill.
“We don’t know yet if we are going to rebuild on the site … we may have to buy another site and build there,” he said. “But we think there’s some of the site that may be salvageable.”
Andy Trottier, who works as a boom man, surveyed the blackened, scorched skeleton of the mill with his co-workers Sunday morning as investigators began to sift through the remains to determine what caused the fire.
“Everyone is pretty close,” he said of his workplace.
Trottier is worried about his job, but shrugged and said, “Life goes on.
“Either rebuild or look for another job.”
The family-run mill had been in operation in Ruskin for almost 40 years.
“Sometimes these things happen in life, but we are very resilient,” Walker said.
– with files