Fire rips through Springfield Mill: 'It started in one of the dryers'

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      SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Fire ripped through the Swanson Mill in Springfield Thursday afternoon, sending a column of black smoke high into the air.

      Eugene-Springfield Fire Chief Randall Groves said the blaze started at around 4:40 p.m. in one of the wood processing plant's dryer units.

      "We do know that all of the employees were safely evacuated and at this point I'm unaware of any injuries," said Chief Groves. "It started in one of the dryers, we do know that. We do not know the cause at this time."

      Groves said it could be several days before they know what caused the blaze at the Swanson Group Manufacturing Springfield Plywood and Veneer facility at 1651 South F St. in Springfield.

      The big column of smoke has dissipated, but officials said the fire will continue to smolder for days.

      "This reminds me of many of the fires that we had back in the early 80s that involved large mills, and they would literally smolder for days or even a week afterward. So this is going to be going on for a while," said Chief Groves. "We had our first fire company on scene in about two minutes."

      Springfield Police Sergeant Rich Charboneau said the streets were flooded with people wanting to catch a glimpse of the blaze, which made it hard for emergency crews trying to get to the scene.

      "A lot of people on South A Street were stopping and watching. And I've been told there were over 100 fire fighters who responded to this, and so we were having problems initially. That lasted for about 40 minutes," said Sgt. Charboneau. "And then we had a problem with pedestrians, because they wanted to get close enough to see."

      Fire crews said they'll be monitoring the flames throughout the night.