SOUTH SHORE Flames continued to burn at Graf Bros. Flooring and Lumber Tuesday as the Graf family begins processing the aftermath of a large fire at their lumber sawmill in South Shore.
Just before 10 p.m. Saturday, a security guard at Graf Bros. Flooring and Lumber noticed smoke coming from one of the warehouses. In the time it took the guard to call the fire department and one of the owners, Greg Graf, the building was fully engulfed in flames.
“He went back by the building to check in within five minutes and it was fully engulfed at that point,” said Crystal McKenzie, Graf Bros. Human Resource Director.
The South Shore Fire Department received the call, responded and immediately called for assistance from other departments in Ohio and Kentucky, said South Shore Fire Chief Kenny Taylor.
Volunteers from Firebrick, Greenup, Little Sandy, Lloyd, Maloneton and Russell Volunteer Fire Departments in Kentucky and from the Green, Nile and Washington townships in Ohio responded to the fire. About 75 men responded in total, Taylor said.
Additional assistance was provided by the Greenup County Sheriff's Department, the Greenup County Firefighters Association, Greenup County E911 and Portsmouth Ambulance, and Air Evac Lifeteam 97 out of Portsmouth, Taylor said.
Taylor said the building and everything inside was a total loss.
Though the building was destroyed, the family is thankful the fire didn't spread further.
“When the firefighters got here, there wasn't much they could do (to save the building), but what they could do and they did very successfully was keep it from getting to any of the other buildings,” McKenzie said.
The flames were contained by 6:30 a.m. Sunday, Taylor said. Most of the flames have subsided and just a corner of the building remains ablaze. As of Tuesday afternoon the building remained too hot for the Kentucky Fire Marshal to fully inspect and begin its investigation, Taylor explained.
The 75,000 sq. ft. building now lays with much of the roof on the ground. The way the flames bent the metal, the structure appears as if it has sunk in on itself. A charred building, partially fallen, houses the remains of the singed equipment, products and fork lifts.
Owners Dave and Greg Graf, along with their family, look forward to the future and continue production.
“We'll be good,” said McKenzie, who is also Greg's daughter. “We'll make it.”
The company has reworked their system to continue fulfilling orders.
“We'll continue to ship,” she said. “Our kilns are full, so we still have lumber to process and our sawmills are still fully functioning. We'll continue to take care of our customers.”
“There was just some inventory in there, that was ready to go because that is our shipping warehouse, so things will be a bit delayed for them, but we'll still get them taken care of,” McKenzie explained.
An emotional McKenzie reflected on a statement her father made regarding the fire, “It will make us stronger and we will keep moving forward.”
McKenzie echoed his thoughts and added “we've built before and we'll build again.”
Even without a portion of their plant non-operational, all employees are still working.
“None of our employees will lose their jobs,” McKenzie said. “We have found positions for all of the people that were employed in that building.”
The Graf family is focused on moving forward and the steps they need to take to get their mill fully functioning again.
“It's the Graf way,” McKenzie said.
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