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Posted December 2, 2009 EST

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4-Alarm Fire Destroys Part Of Sawmill In Mertztown
United States (Pennsylvania) - A spectacular four-alarm fire destroyed part of a sawmill Tuesday night in Longswamp Township. Flames shot 50 feet into the air above Solt's Sawmill at 33 S. Park Ave., lighting up the sky with a glow that could be seen for several miles.

The owner, Kerry Solt, watched helplessly as flames ravaged the business his father and uncle founded 53 years ago.

"It's tough when you see everything you worked your whole life for go up in flames," said Solt, 56, who's been working at the mill since he was 16. "When you grew up with this business, this is something you don't want to see."

Solt estimated damage to the mill, which makes wooden pallets for East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc. in Lyons, at $500,000. The mill, which employs about 15 people, had closed for the day at about 2:30 p.m., Solt said. No one was in the mill when the fire started, he said. No injuries were reported by authorities. Topton Fire Chief Randy Sicher said the fire started about 6:30 p.m. in the pallet room, a manufacturing area containing power saws, compressors and pneumatic hammers. The fire was initially fed by propane from a large tank outside the mill, Sicher said. "When we arrived, flames were shooting through the roof," he said. "Once we got the propane turned off , we knocked down the fl ames pretty quick." It took dozens of fi refi ghters about 21 /2 hours to control the blaze. The cause of the fire was not suspicious, but it remained undetermined, Sicher said. A state police fi re marshal will investigate the site today, he said.

Melanie Miller, Solt's daughter, said she walked out of her house about 50 yards from the mill and saw fl ames rising from the building.

Her 9-1-1 call brought an army of fi refighters from at least 15 volunteer companies, some from as far away as Trexlertown in Lehigh County.

With no fire hydrants from which to draw water, firefighters set up a tanker brigade that wound its way along South Park Avenue, a narrow road near State Street in the village of Mertztown.

Flashing red and blue lights cut through the darkness as 50 or more tankers and ladder trucks rushed to the scene.

Firefighters, perched 75 feet in the air, bombarded the blaze with water cannons from aerial trucks from the Topton and Kutztown fire companies.

Solt congratulated the fi refi ghters for containing the fire to the pallet shop, a converted barn relocated from Lehigh County about 40 years ago. Outbuildings containing machinery that prepares oak and poplar logs for manufacturing were not touched by the fi re. Firefighters formed a line to remove wood from a storage area near the burning building, reducing the chances of the fi re spreading. His father, Paul, and his late uncle, Russell, started the mill in 1956. Paul Solt watched the fire with other family members. Firefighters were expected to remain at the scene through the night, dousing hot spots amid the rubble. "This is a wooden building with a lot of wood in it," Sicher said. "We don't want to take any chances that the fire will rekindle."

Written by Reading Eagle

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix


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