BAY CITY, MI â€” When construction business slipped throughout the region, so went customer orders at Bay Valley Millwork near the Marquette Industrial Center.
Yet business rebounded and, lately, orders were plentiful.
That’s why Bay Valley owner Rob Hackborn and his wife Holly were especially devastated when they took a call Sunday, May 19, at their Hampton Township home informing them the company was aflame.
From the Independence Bridge, they saw the black smoke.
From their makeshift seats on a lumber pile, they witnessed the ruin: a charred, caved-in building where wood was cut for customers like Straits Wood Treating.
“It’s upsetting because he’s been really busy,” Holly Hackborn said. “Business had started coming around. Now he’s got lots to do and no place to do it.”
Straits apparently owns the 4804 E. Wilder Road property from which Bay Valley operated for nearly two decades.
According to Bay City firefighters, a Straits forklift operator was in the lumberyard surrounding Bay Valley’s operation when he saw smoke coming from the building.
Bay County dispatchers confirmed they received the forklift operator’s call around 3:20 p.m. He apparently was the only one on the property.
When firefighters from the city’s three stations arrived, roughly 70 percent of the building was blazing, Assistant Fire Chief Richard Kozuch said.
Nearby power lines and interior flames prevented the firefighters from entering the burning building, which took around 90 minutes to get under control, Kozuch said.
While there were no injuries, the structure was a total loss, he added.
“It’s a solid steel building,” Bay City Fire Marshal Thomas Wieszczecinski said. “It had to have a lot of heat inside.”
He was still searching for a cause of the fire Sunday evening. Wieszczecinski noted that the lumber inside was stacked with few air pockets, so he doubts that would have provided the fuel for a fire burning so hot.
He plans to look at electrical issues and a mobile home that was used as an office and also destroyed in the fire. Arson isn’t likely, he said.
Bay Valley’s half a dozen employees were notified Sunday that their workplace was out of commission.
Rob Hackborn wasn’t sure what he was going to do about his company. However, “We’ll work something out,” he said.
David I. Nethers, a top Straits official, took a phone call from an MLive reporter but did not have information about the fire.
Straits uses chemicals to treat wood for use in residential, industrial and agricultural building applications.