Kavinda Herath / Stuff
Fire crews at Pankhurst Sawmill near Riverton on Tuesday night. A spokesman for New Zealand firefighters and emergency services said the fire started in a milling shed.
The owner of the Riverton sawmill says that the fire in his business is a “shitty” way to start in 2021.
Five village fire brigades in Southland were called to the Pankhurst sawmill fire around 7 p.m.
A spokesman for New Zealand firefighters and emergency services said the call arrived around 7pm to burn gas from a 25 x 10m milling machine at the sawmill, as well as piles of sawdust and other milling piles.
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Pankhurst Sawmilling owner Rodney Lonneker said they were very lucky with the fire.
Only a small portion of the shed was damaged, most of the stairs would be intact, and only a small roof would be damaged, Lonneker said.
An emergency response quickly helped keep the fire under control very quickly, he said.
He did not say the timber was damaged in the fire, he said.
Lonneker was not at the scene when he was informed of the fire by the owner of the Pankhurst farm who called him.
He wasn’t sure what caused the fire, he said.
“We’re very happy … the shit just started the year.”
Initial fire crews that responded came from Riverton, Wallacetown and Thornbury, but needed more help, so volunteer fire crews from Orepuki and Otautau were also called.
A FENZ spokesman around 7pm described the fire as “well involved”.
Rodney and Amanda Lonneker took over the sawmill from the Pankhurst family in 2015.
It is considered one of the largest employers in Riverton with about 28 employees.