VOLNEY, NY – Dennis Gantley, 70, admits he was thinking about retiring, just not like this.
This morning (Feb. 20) the owner of Black Creek Lumber Company on County Route 57 in Volney, lost his entire business to fire.
“I’ve been thinking about retiring. I think this is rushing it along,” he said.
He said he’s sad to see the sawmill go. “I didn’t want to see it go like this,” he added. “It was a ball of fire, I’ll tell you.”
The call came in around 8:42 a.m., according to the Oswego County Fire Coordinator. It was brought under control in 45 minutes to an hour he said, adding there were no injuries.
Almost a dozen area fire departments responded to the fire.
The large sawmill was completely engulfed in flames when the first units arrived on the scene.
Gantley told Oswego County Today that he got the call just after 8 a.m. His two employees were inside working and had accidentally sparked the fire, he said. He used to have seven or eight employees.
“They were cutting a cable. We’d done some logging, over in the woods to get some logs. Evidently, they were cutting something with an acetylene torch and they went back out and when they turned around the whole side of the wall was on fire. They used up four or five fire extinguishers trying to put it out. They thought they almost had it out,” he said. “By the time the fire department got here it was really going, really going by then.”
“They seem to be more shook up than I am,” Gantley said of the two employees. “Maybe I’m waiting for it to set in. It happened pretty quick.”
He bought the business in 1978 and “I’ve rebuilt it a couple of times,” he said. He doesn’t know right now what his next step will be, he added.
“I was in the logging business before that and I see all the sawmills were making a lot more money than I was. So, I bought a sawmill and realized that they weren’t making as much as I thought,” Gantley said with a laugh.
“The community has been growing up around it since I’ve been here,” he said of the long-time Volney business. “A lot of houses have been built around here. This used to be just out in the country when I first moved here.”
“They were using a cutting torch and didn’t realize it but they started a fire while using the cutting torch. They tried to put it out themselves, thought they had it out but it extended up into the wall,” said Oswego County Fire Coordinator Donald Forbes. “When they realized they didn’t have it out, they called 911.”
Volney was first on the scene and reported fully involved structure fire.
“They lost everything. They lost the mill, the forklift, a loader, wood chopper and all the other tools inside,” he said. “He had no insurance.”
There was heavy fire and smoke in the main building, it was already through the roof when firefighters got here, Forbes added. Part of the building collapsed about 10 minutes after firefighters arrived.
A 40-pound propane tank exploded shortly after firefighters arrived also, Forbes noted.
Departments responding besides Volney included Scriba, Minetto, New Haven, Central Square, Cody, Palermo, Hastings, the county Cascade Unit, Menter Ambulance and the county fire coordinator’s office.
At this point, Gantley said he isn’t sure how he will remember the sawmill.
“I don’t want to remember the smoke, I know that,” he said.
The3 videos below were posted on YouTube by user “dancnbrs”. The first one shows the early stages of the fire, including an apparent explosion in a propane tank at the 17 second mark. The second shows the fire being brought under control: