Mill Cabinet Shop History: Fire of 1998



In October of 1998, Mill Cabinet Shop suffered a devastating loss as fire ravaged the building. With determination and the support of the community, we rebuilt with amazing speed. Below is the text of 2 articles published about the fire in the local paper, The Daily News Record.

Fire 15 Fire 16

By ALAYNA DEMARTINI News-Record Staff Writer Fire destroyed a cabinet shop near Bridgewater early Tuesday, starting in a spraying area and tearing through the building.

It had not been determined Tuesday night what started the fire at Mill Cabinet Shop Inc., said John Huddle, Rockingham County’s fire investigator. The fire was reported by a neighbor about 1 a.m., and most of the flames were extinguished by about 5 a.m.

The damage amounted to several hundred thousand dollars, Huddle said.

The blaze started in a room where cabinets had been sprayed with lacquers, and it also contained heaters, blowers, electrical outlets, fans and light switches, Huddle said.

Huddle said he is uncertain if lacquers started the blaze. The owners of the business told fire officials that most of the lacquer containers were stored in an outside facility and less than 50 gallons were in the building, Huddle said.

Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Goering said the business owners are Randy and Lee Stover.

Huddle said no one was in or near the building at the time, but arson has not been ruled out.

“We’re not far enough in the investigation to rule out anything,” he said.

Goering, however, said there was no suspicion of arson.

The cabinet shop’s storage building, which contained a few hundred gallons of lacquers, was about 100 feet away from the main building; it received heat damage, but did not catch on fire, Huddle said.

Industry standards require that lacquers be stored in an outside building.

At this point in the investigation, it seems to be that the cabinet shop owners “were doing everything right,” Huddle said. “It doesn’t appear to be a question of them being lax in what they were doing. We don’t know exactly what happened.”

Mill Cabinet had been open since the 1950s and employed about 25-30 people, Huddle said.

The building was filled with flames when firefighters arrived. About 40 firefighters from Clover Hill, Rockingham County’s Hose Company No. 4, Mount Solon, Weyers Cave and Bridgewater fire departments responded to the call. The Bridgewater Rescue Squad stood by, Goering said.

When firefighters arrived, they were able to confine the flames to the spray room, but then the fire rolled over the top of them, spreading throughout the attic area. The flames were fueled by sawdust, Huddle said.

The building is about 13,000 square-feet and shaped like an L. Not a lot of cabinets were stored in the building because they are generally sent out as soon as they are made, Huddle said.

The first fire crews to be sent home left just before sunrise, he said.

This morning, fire officials were scheduled to return to the scene to complete the investigation.

Shop Fire Traced To Equipment Area

By ALAYNA DEMARTINI News-Record Staff Writer The fire Tuesday morning at Mill Cabinet Shop Inc. was traced to electrical equipment above a spray booth.

But John Huddle, a Rockingham County fire investigator, said he could not determine if the blaze was caused by faulty electrical equipment at the top of the booth, the site where finishes were applied to cabinets.

The electrical equipment was turned over to the insurance company, which may be able to determine whether there was a problem with it, Huddle said.

The fire scene seems to indicate the fire did not originate with lacquers, although lacquers may have fueled the fire a little bit, Huddle said.

Less than 50 gallons of lacquer were left in the business on Dry River Road near Bridgewater, Huddle has said.

“Just because you have lacquers in there does not mean that caused the fire,” said Huddle, who ruled out arson as the cause.

The fire was reported by a neighbor about 1 a.m., and although it was under control by 3 a.m., it continued to burn in some areas through Wednesday afternoon.]

Huddle estimated that damage was in the $750,000 range.

“When you get a fire of that magnitude, you can’t put it out until you start hauling the debris away,” Huddle said.]

The site was pretty well cleared by Wednesday afternoon because of a lot of support in the community, Huddle said.

Mill Cabinet’s office manager Pat Shiflet, whose uncles and grandmother own the business, said they plan to rebuild, and it likely will be on the same site. The shop employs 25-30 people.

He said construction could begin in as early as three weeks.