Alamco fire wasn’t caused by electrical failure

Published 1:50 pm Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Authorities said Tuesday they have ruled out an electrical problem as the cause of fire Monday night at an Alamco Wood Products building used for drying wood.

Albert Lea Fire Chief Paul Stieler said the fire is believed to have started in the center partition of the building on the south side and that it was not intentionally set.

The fire was contained to the single building — which is wood-lined on the interior with metal siding on the exterior — where there was a wood furnace, stored wood and a tractor inside. The building is on the north end of the Alamco campus.

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Stieler said Alamco’s insurance company has hired an investigator to come in and survey the scene today. After their inspection, the investigator and firefighters will meet together, share notes and have more to share with the public.

He did not wish to expand more on the results of the Albert Lea Fire Department’s investigation.

“We don’t want to corrupt their investigation, so we always let them do theirs separately,” Stieler said. “Then we get together and compare notes.”

An Alamco spokesman confirmed the company’s private investigator and noted the business has not yet determined the value of its loss. There was an insurance adjuster meeting with leaders of the business on Tuesday.

The fire was called into authorities just before 8:30 p.m. Monday when employees working second-shift went outside for their supper break at 8:25 p.m., smelled smoke and saw the fire.

Alamco Wood Products is owned by New Brighton-based Bell Lumber & Pole. The first wood-laminating plant was built in Albert Lea in 1939 by the Rock Island Lumber Co., or RILCO. It built at the present Ninth Street site in 1954. RILCO became a division of Weyerhaeuser in 1960.

Weyerhaeuser in the early 1980s began to divest its wood-processing operations. In 1982, it closed the plant. Ten former salaried Weyerhauser employees purchased and reopened the plant later that year.

Bell purchased Alamco Wood Products in May 2009. The two companies already had a working relationship prior to the sale.

Look to the Tribune for more about this investigation as developments occur.