Crews battle blaze at Wagner Lumber in Owego
The Wagner Lumber mill at 3707 Gaskill Rd., Owego, N.Y. was the scene of a massive structure fire that was reported at 3:23 a.m. on Sunday. Crews were still on the scene some seven hours later as the remains of the mill building and a damaged adjacent structure continued to smolder.
The Campville Fire Department was first on the scene, and found flames shooting up from the engulfed buildings. In all, at least 17 fire departments from Broome and Tioga counties in New York and Bradford County in Pennsylvania responded to the scene.
Departments responding to the Gaskill Road scene included units from East Maine, Little Meadows, Owego, Nichols, Candor, Tioga, and Berkshire as well as assistance from Lockheed Martin and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, according to Tioga County Fire Coordinator Jon Scott. Scott said that the investigative unit from the Office of Fire Prevention and Control was on scene to help Tioga County fire investigators determine the cause of the fire.
"Mutual aid worked great," Scott said. "All the crews performed well. They did a fantastic job." Scott reported that no firefighters were injured as they fought the fire.
One of the biggest challenges firefighters faced as they struggled to bring the fire under control was the bitter cold, according to Scott. Equipment continued to freeze up in the cold temperatures which were still in the teens at mid-morning Sunday. Some units were sent to Campville Station 2 only a few hundred yards away from Wagner Lumber on Gaskill Road to thaw out.
Scott said most of the aid Campville received was from tanker trucks dispatched to ferry water from hydrants located at Lockheed Martin and on Rte. 17C in Owego. Portable holding tanks were set up to feed the firefighter's demand for water as they quenched the fire and continued to soak the charred remains to prevent flare-ups.
Scott said the fire was concentrated in the mill building of the Owego Wagner Lumber facility, which was bought by Hamburg, N.Y. based Baillie Lumber in September 2012. At that time Wagner employed approximately 250 people, with yearly production of over 50 million board feet of lumber processed from 15,000 truckloads of logs. Wagner Lumber was founded in 1976 by Les Wagner and Steve Schaffer.