Sawmill Fire in Kennard Still Smoldering 

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

KENNARD  – Kennard Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD) first received the call of a fire at the sawmill located at 505 Welch Street Friday, Aug. 11 at around 9 p.m.  The fire crews worked all night to get the fire under control, eventually calling in 11 other agencies to assist. 

Don Parrish, KVFD Chief said the cause of the fire is still unknown, but due to the nature of the sawmill business, getting the fire controlled was an all-night job involving dozens of firefighters and many pieces of equipment from several departments from around the area. 

“When we got the call and arrived on scene, we had lots of heavy fire and smoke,” Parrish said. “A lot of wood and sawdust was burning, but the fire had gotten into the sawmill itself and burned a majority of the sawmill equipment.”

The owner of the sawmill was able to rescue some equipment, but most of the complex itself was destroyed as firefighters worked through the night to make sure the conflagration didn’t spread, given the dry and dangerous conditions in the county. 

While thankfully no one was seriously injured fighting the blaze, one firefighter from Ratcliff VFD and one from Kennard VFD were transported to the hospital to receive treatment for heat exhaustion. 

Parrish said he wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but it was comforting to receive so many resources from so many neighboring areas to help him and his team fight the fire. 

“It was pretty impressive and I was well pleased. I guess during the heat of the moment, it just didn’t dawn on me. They know we deeply appreciate everybody that came out,” Parrish said. 

It would deplete the water supply to completely put the fire out, so Parrish is in contact with the sawmill owner who is keeping a close watch as the fire will hopefully go out on its own over the next few days. Parrish asked residents to help keep an eye on the fire spreading as he and his department are monitoring the situation in case there is a further flare up, but cautioned against dialing 911 just because of the smoke from the current, controlled fire. 

“There’s a lot of smoke in the area and the occasional flare-up,” Parrish said. “This is just very hard to completely put out. It’s just going to have to eventually burn itself out, but we are making sure it remains contained.”

Parrish noted the uptick in fire calls as the dry, hot summer shows no signs of cooling or rain. KVFD is looking to get a grant for a new engine and is working with the City of Kennard to complete the grant and get the badly needed new equipment. 

“Our engine is down, and our trucks are more or less pieced together to get us through the fire season,” Parrish explained. “Just about all of our equipment has something wrong with it, so we’re having to call out help from other departments on almost every call.”

Parrish will be working with Kennard Mayor Jesse Stephens at a city council meeting this week or at a special session to get the grant approved and help KVFD be ready for their own area or to assist other fire departments as needed.  

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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