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Libby fire shocks community, hits local economy - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Libby fire shocks community, hits local economy

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LIBBY - A town in shock today as one of it's largest businesses burned to the ground Sunday.  One of the few remaining lumber mills in the state is no more, and investigators don't know why.

It was Sunday afternoon and flames could be seen shooting from the SK Fingerjoint Mill in Libby.

"Heavy fire coming through the roof upon arrival of the scene. Life safety was the first priority. I think you had eight to 10 personnel there with an engine and a water tender," Libby Assistant Fire Chief Steve Lauer said.

"We also had a couple of thousand gallon propane tanks that were a potential fire hazard for them. Those propane tanks are within just 10 to 15 feet of the fire itself. So we set up what we call a water curtain to protect that exposure," Lauer added.

The hazardous environment had firefighters in defense mode as they battled the blaze for hours -- and they were dealing with a lack of water on site.

A firefighter was treated on scene by Libby Ambulance Services and is doing okay but the only thing left of the SK Fingerjoint Mill is the office building. The fire destroyed two buildings and has displaced 18 employees.

Bill Cunnane watched the Mill burn down, "I live a couple blocks away.It was going really hot and heavy there you could feel the heat from here in the parking lot."

The 18 employees -- including the owner of the business Dan Kneeler -- have been displaced, but Libby Mayor Brent Teske says the community is standing behind them.

"It was a good viable economic industry and our last foothold into the timber industry," Mayor Teske said.

Employees of the mill will be meeting with a local job service agency to go over possible options which could include retraining.

There's still no word on what sparked the blaze.

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