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Fire heavily damages lumber company site in Adams

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ADAMS — A massive predawn fire Sunday damaged the building and destroyed much of the machinery of Berry Bros. Lumber Co., 9124 Route 11.

Crews were called to the site shortly after 5 a.m. Joseph P. Simpson, Jefferson County Zone 1 deputy fire coordinator and an Adams Fire Department member, said firefighters saw heavy smoke and flames when they arrived.

Among the combustible materials in large quantities at the site were wood, paper and cardboard, which the company uses to make bedding for farm animals. Strong winds coming through an open side of the steel building also affected responding crews.

Firefighters had to run about 2,000 feet of hose from a hydrant at the village limits to fight the fire and cleared the scene between noon and 1 p.m. A stretch of Main Street in the village was closed for several hours while crews worked at the scene. Mr. Simpson said crews also had to haul water from Sandy Creek, which runs through the village, to fight the fire.

The fire’s cause has not been determined.

Standing Sunday afternoon at the site’s fabrication shop, co-owner Gary J. Berry said the fire caused at least $100,000 worth of damage, destroying two grinders and a dryer used to make the bedding. Also lost in the fire were five conveyor systems and two tractor-trailers used to move products from the site.

“It’s a rough day, but nobody got hurt,” Mr. Berry said. “It’s machine and inventory. That’s the way you have to look at it.”

He said he had been told earlier in the day the fire’s cause could be listed as undetermined as investigators could not single out a cause from a few potential scenarios.

Mr. Berry, who co-owns the business with his brother Lee D., said the business is partially insured but many of the machines feature custom modifications that made them “priceless.”

He said with insurance company approval, work will resume at the site Monday morning. He said a grinder used only in the summer will be brought out and used by workers, who will have to work longer hours in an attempt to keep up with demand.

“We’re going to have to work twice as hard to get half as much,” Mr. Berry said.

In recent months, Mr. Berry said demand for their work had been growing. In the past week, he said the company secured a contract to supply bedding to a farm with 1,300 cows.

In addition to the two brothers, the company employs four people.

Fire departments from Rodman, Adams Center, Lorraine, Watertown, Belleville, Henderson, Smithville, Ellisburg and Mannsville also responded.

The lumber site also sustained major damage in a fire in June 2008. In its aftermath, the business shifted fully to producing the animal bedding products.

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