On the evening of Wednesday, June 17, a fire broke out at Woodline Sawmills in Onamia, causing infrastructure damage. Four different agencies were present fighting the blaze, putting it out in three hours. Woodline Sawmills owner Katie Vivant spoke on the effort to fight the fire and how it would impact Woodline’s operations in the coming weeks.
Vivant stated that the fire started around 6:15 p.m. At the time, Vivant was teaching a class in Brainerd when she was contacted by her crew at the mill about the fire. In total, Vivant stated three buildings had been damaged. One hoop structure was completely destroyed with the two adjacent buildings requiring substantial repairs. Vivant added that most of the mills’ machinery itself remained undamaged and that the fire had caused primarily structural damage. There were several components of the site’s processing system that would need to be replaced. No person was injured as a result from the fire.
Vivant wanted to credit the efforts, commitment, and the selflessness of those who assisted in putting out the fire, which included the Onamia, Isle, Garrison, and Milaca fire departments, as well as the DNR’s wildland firefighters. She extended her thanks to all first responders and law enforcement who showed up, noting the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Department was on the scene immediately. She also thanked her staff at the mills, as they had also come in to help.
Due to the fire, Vivant said the mills would be down for some time before they could re-open, and the time frame of the closure was, as of yet, undetermined. She said partial operations would be possible, but it would require significant adjustments.
Onamia’s fire chief, Bruce Peterson, stated that his department was present fighting the fire from 6:30 p.m. to around 9:30 p.m. While Peterson noted the process of fighting the fire was largely routine, he did add that winds caused the fire to spread, resulting in multiple small fires going at one time. He was unable to provide any comment as to suspected causes for the blaze.