Lumber business open after blaze
July 28, 2014 11:00 AM
by CHAUNCEY ROSS
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A long-standing family-owned lumber supply business was running almost normally this morning, just 36 hours after a fire caused an estimated $350,000 of damage at the company’s site north of Indiana.

The fire gutted a storage building at the Schroth Industries lumber yard along Martin Road in White Township, destroying a supply of lumber, a tractor, parts for antique vehicles and some personal belongings, according to company owner Walter Schroth.

Fire officials said the blaze began just after 5 p.m. Saturday when a skid steer malfunctioned and caught fire while Schroth was operating it near the building. Flames spread to the storage structure, climbed to the second floor and burned through the wooden eaves and roof while Schroth rescued a vintage military vehicle from the structure.

Intense heat melted the vinyl siding and cracked some windows of the main office building about 50 feet away, but no other buildings on the grounds were reported damaged.

No one was said to be injured.

Today, insurance adjusters are expected on site, but so are suppliers and customers.

“We’ve had two loads of lumber in already, so we’re up and running,” Schroth said just before 8 a.m. “We have power, we have phone. The office and main damage had minimal damage.

“Other than a little inconvenience, the minor inconvenience, of dealing with a minor cleanup, that’s the only impact this fire is going to have on our day-to-day operations. And I feel extremely fortunate to be able to make that statement.”

Schroth praised the work of firefighters who laid about 2,900 feet of hose to the site from a fire hydrant along White Farm Road, off North Sixth Street, and set up their engines to maintain water pressure to the scene of the fire.

The Indiana, Creekside, Homer City, Clymer, Cherryhill Township fire departments and the Indiana County hazardous materials team responded first, then the Marion Center, Black Lick and Plumville fire departments were placed on standby assignments.

After the first attack on the fire, Indiana and Creekside volunteers were sent back at 3:30 a.m. Sunday when the embers rekindled.

“I can’t say enough for the work these guys did. Unbelievable,” Schroth said. “The response was phenomenal, what they did and how they did it. To keep it contained to that building, so it didn’t get anywhere else on the site, was an absolutely stupendous job.”

Schroth said the fire didn’t affect his fleet of restored World War II era vehicles. For years, he has bought vintage military jeeps and trucks, using the best of the parts on them to make fully working vehicles, performing most of the work at the lumber yard.

“We had some parts for antique military vehicles and tractors, some vehicles that were awaiting restoration,” he said. “Most of the other vehicles are stored off-site. There was one Jeep that was in that building that I was able to get out right after the fire started, and was able to safely remove it before the building was engulfed.”

Schroth’s grandfather started the business in 1947 along Old Clymer Road and mainly produced treated lumber for use in the coal mining industry, primarily by Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Co.

With the decline of the mining industry, the company opened its sales to all customers, both individuals and retail suppliers, in the late 1980s. Schroth Lumber now produces treated lumber for decks and landscape timbers.

PHOTO: Fire Chief Scott Schuller, left, and firefighter Jason Snyder rinsed off bunker gear and hoses Sunday at the Indiana Fire Association’s Water Street station after a fire Saturday at Schroth Industries in White Township rekindled. (James J. Nestor/Gazette)

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