Fire Destroys Lumber Mill -- Olympia's Worst Blaze Causes $25-50 Million Damage

A five-alarm blaze ripped through a lumber mill on the west side of Olympia early yesterday, causing an estimated $25 million to $50 million in damage and igniting piles of plywood that burned for hours.

It was the worst fire in the city's history, said Olympia Fire Department Capt. Pat Noonan.

Hardel Mutual Plywood Corp., 1210 W. Bay Drive, was operating its mill when the fire started shortly before 5 a.m.

The blaze may have started in a lumber dryer, The Associated Press reported. Noonan said he could not confirm the cause.

No one was injured, but flames and smoke could be seen for miles. The two-block-long building burned to the ground.

It took fire crews and a fireboat more than 12 hours to douse the fire, which smoldered late into the day.

"There was just a tremendous fire load in that building," said Olympia fire Lt. Larry Gregory.

About 100 firefighters responded to the scene, Noonan said.

Sprinklers apparently were activated at the building but couldn't keep up with rapidly moving flames.

Witnesses said the blaze quickly got past the sprinkler system above the dryer and spread into the rafters.

Hardel employs 250 to 300 workers, Noonan said. Company officials could not be reached for comment.