Three of Country Lumber’s owners stood at a safe distance, away from a charred warehouse, as firefighters mopped up and doused hot spots late Saturday morning.
It was a restless morning for Ken Humphrey, Ron Haan, and Scott Rexworthy, who watched helplessly as a section of their beam yard at 252nd Street and Fraser Highway was enveloped in flames just before midnight Friday.
“We don’t know how the fire started,” Humphrey told the Langley Advance. “We just got a call at midnight saying it was fully engulfed.”
When he arrived, Humphrey saw “a ball of fire.”
Rexworthy said he felt “a little sick to my stomach” when he saw the fire.
“Heartbroken… but we’ll move forward,” he added. “It’s all good.”
Between 80 and 90 Langley Township firefighters fought the blaze over about 12 hours on the weekend.
“The guys did a fantastic job containing the fire,” said district chief Pat Walker.
Every tanker in the Township fire department was in use shuttling water to the fire, and the firefighters threw up a water curtain to keep the intense heat away from the buildings to the east. They kept the fire from spreading to nearby businesses, including a hay storage nearby.
The explosions heard during the fire were propane bottles attached to forklifts blowing up, Walker said.
The exact cause remains unknown and probably will never be determined.
“It definitely started in the warehouse area, over by the chainsaw shop,” said Walker.
But the destruction was “so immense” that finding the exact starting point of the fire is likely impossible, Walker said.
The fire had been burning for some time before anyone noticed, due to the orientation of the yard and buildings relative to Fraser Highway, Walker said.
Humphrey said the focus now is getting the business back up and operating.
“It is what it is,” he said. “We can’t do much about it. We just want to get things up and running. We have employees who work Monday, we’ve got orders to fill… that’s our goal, is to get up and running.”
Haan was confident the business’s engineered wood division will be operating on Monday “like normal.”
Country Lumber’s has two divisions: the business’s retail division is further west down the road at 22538 Fraser Highway.
The warehouse, situated at Country Lumber’s wholesale facility at 25284 Fraser Hwy. which employs 25 people, was damaged significantly by the fire.
“It’ll be probably mid next week we’ll have everybody up and running,” Humphrey said.
A family-run company that began in 1981 with two employees, Country Lumber is now home to more than 90 employees, according to its website.