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Cause of RY Timber fire in Townsend remains a mystery, sheriff says

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A photo from the fire was posted on the Broadwater County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.

Broadwater County Sheriff Wynn Meehan said the cause of the May 26 fire at RY Timber remains a mystery partly due to a lack of evidence and missed opportunity to have potential clues evaluated immediately by fire experts.

Meehan said Monday, more than two months after the fire which ripped through the building at 85 Mill Road in Townsend, that he has reviewed the videotapes that are available from the blaze.

But he still does not know how it started.

Chief Ed Shindoll of the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department said illness prevented him from being at the fire that night, and, as a result, firefighters did not call in a state fire marshal to help determine the cause.

“It was inexperience,” Shindoll said, adding that had he been at the blaze the state fire marshal would have been notified.

He said the volunteer firefighters have since been coached on the proper procedure. He and Meehan said they had not heard from any insurance company about a cause of the blaze.

There were no injuries reported, officials said. There was no one working in the building at the time of the fire.

Meehan said it seems that the fire started in the middle of the building. He said the fire came into view of the videotape at 9:26 p.m. and then went bigger about 11 p.m. before the video quit working.

“We’ll leave it up to the insurance company, he said, adding the fire consumed everything. “There is nowhere to go any farther.”

The mill has been closed since January 2019 and was being prepared for auction in June, Dan Richards, general manager of RY Timber, said in May, adding 14 employees had remained at the site getting it ready for auction.

Richards said Tuesday the mill’s insurance company did not determine a cause either.

“I guess it came to a certain point where they didn’t think anything would happen,” he said.

He said the Townsend mill went into auction phase in June. He said the company still owns 124 acres in Townsend, which is now under review. It still operates a mill in Livingston.

RY Timber on its website says the company is considered to be one of the leading suppliers of high-quality 2x4 studs.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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Assistant Editor/Reporter

Phil Drake is the assistant editor and reporter at the Independent Record.

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