Fire that destroyed two-thirds of Modesto lumber yard under investigation

Local News

MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) – An early morning fire raged at American Lumber Company in Modesto Friday, leaving multiple buildings destroyed.

Fire crews received the first call to North Ninth Street around 12:10 a.m., according to the Modesto Fire Department. 

Modesto Fire said 12 fire engines, five ladder trucks and 63 personnel responded to the three-alarm fire. 

“Initially, it was an unknown type fire, like a trash fire, so they send one engine to investigate. … They found a bigger fire than what they expected,” explained Battalion Chief Darin Jessberg of Modesto Fire.

The delay for more engines to arrive allowed the fire to grow, burning the mill and the buildings housing specialty woods, such as mahogany, oak and maple. 

But locals worry more than inventory stands to be lost.

“The people that work here know what they’re doing, so when you come in, they take the time, and you can get almost anything. It’s not like waiting at some of the other superstores, and without this, it’s going to be really tough,” woodworker Jon Camp told FOX40.

Camp is a client who said the quality and service make American Lumber Company a jewel in the community.

“Whether you were in construction, building a house, a homeowner or a little old lady that needs a piece of wood for something, American Lumber is woven into the fabric of the community,” mill manager Jon Barber said.

Whether they’d worked there six years, like Barber, or 40 like Bob Rogers, the employees FOX40 spoke with were full of pride for their part in the business. It is run by the same family who founded it in 1923, and they know all there is to know about wood.

As for what started the fire, investigators say they’ll work to find where the fire first started and go from there.

“On the rail lines back there, we see a lot of homeless and transients coming in and out in the morning. It could have been that,” yard supervisor Pete Alvarez said. “I don’t think it was electrical. We make sure everything is turned off at night before we close.”

Meanwhile, Jessberg told FOX40, “At this point, I have no information that this is arson.”

While some employees were told not to come into work Friday, some said to FOX40 they’re confident they’ll be up and running in any capacity possible as soon as possible.

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