Sawyer Bentwood mill saved by Whitingham Fire Department


WHITINGHAM >> A landmark in town was saved by fast responses to a fire late Friday night.

"It's been here for at least 100 years, I would say," Whitingham Fire Chief Stan Janovsky said of the Sawyer Bentwood mill located on Maple Drive. "It was a good save, a really quick save."

Minor damage to one interior wall, two conveyors and the roof were noted by Janovsky. His department was first on scene. No one was inside the mill and no injuries were sustained from the fire.

With no rain in the forecast, Janovsky said Sawyer Bentwood would be able to figure out how to fix the damaged parts of the building without the damage getting worse.

The company specializes in steam bending wood. According to, over 20 employees help produce bentwood components, custom bendings, edge bands, table skirts, chair backs, bench bow backs, rocker runners, wood slats and wood splats. The company was established in 1801.

The fire was upgraded to a second alarm at about 9:44 p.m. Janovsky said plenty of fire was showing in a section dedicated to grinding scrap wood to heat the building and another area in the rear.

As of 11:15 p.m., the cause of the fire was unknown. A fire marshal was asked to come look at the property, Janovsky said.

"It might have started in the duct work on the conveyor," said Janovsky. "It was definitely hot. The first engine had it knocked down pretty fast."

The interior metal walls were "glowing red," Janovsky said. Getting the building ventilated so firefighters could go inside was the main challenge.

A positive-pressure fan, described as a big fan with a motor, was used to clear out the smoke. The equipment helps with finding hot spots, Janovsky said.

Departments from Wilmington, Readsboro and Stamford were at the scene. The Halifax Fire Company covered the Whitingham Fire Department station. Approximately 40 to 50 firefighters responded to the fire, said Janovsky.

Also assisting were Green Mountain Power and Deerfield Valley Rescue. The power company was "really quick" to come and shut down the phase-three electric power, said Janovsky, referring to a type of system used to power large motors and other heavy loads.

"We had a good turnout," he said, adding that the pressurized pumps from Sawyer Bentwood's pump house and its hydrant system provided a good water source, and the sprinklers had activated.

Contact Chris Mays at or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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