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Sawmill burns north of Oakland

Dry weather and strong winds contributed to a blaze that swept through a massive pile of logs north of Oakland on Wednesday.

The fire, which was reported about 2:15 p.m. as a shed fire, then as a sawmill fire, burned through a pile of logs estimated at 100-by-100-yards at Len's Wood Products, 22726 890th Ave., about a mile north of Oakland.

Firefighters from 13 departments responded, according to Chuck Karl, the incident commander and Albert Lea Township fire chief. Eventually, the force grew to 125, including firefighters from Austin. Karl said that with volunteer firefighters harvesting crops, he didn't know how many would respond, so "we kept paging."

Karl said an early problem was a shortage of water, which one bystander saw being trucked in from the west edge of Austin. Oakland is about 6 miles west of Austin.

The fire destroyed several small buildings, Karl said. No one was injured, and a house on the property was not damaged. One firefighter estimated crews were able to save half the logs.


The sawmill, which is owned by Len Meyer, harvests logs, does custom sawing and sells firewood. A neighbor said the company's primary business is the manufacture of pallets.

At dusk Wednesday, crews with skid loaders and a backhoe continued to sift through the pile as firefighters extinguished hot spots.

Karl did not know the cause of the fire, but said the state fire marshal and an investigation team from Albert Lea would make that determination.

Among fire departments responding were those from Hollandale, Albert Lea Township, Glenville, Hayward and Blooming Prairie, as well as a Salvation Army canteen.

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