Wagner Lumber to Rebuild After Fire

Written By: Asha McKenzie
Wagner Lumber to Rebuild After Fire

OWEGO (WENY) -- Wagner Lumber in Owego is rebuilding after a fire that nearly destroyed the business earlier this year.
     The sawmill that had been standing for more than 40 years is now gone.
     But the lumber company broke ground this week on a new 21st century mill.
     "The main sawmill was right in this flat area, which was burnt to the ground," said Les Wagner, owner of Wagner Lumber as he showed WENY a now empty lot. "We had to demo that and all the machinery that was inside."
     This fire in February changed the fate of Wagner Lumber.
     Owner Les Wagner planned to take a step back in the company after starting it over 40 years ago. But that morning changed everything..not necessarily for the worst.
     "Right now, I have a blank sheet of paper," said Wagner. "We're kind of building a sawmill of everyone's dreams. And we're factoring maintenance for almost 30 or 40 years.
     Wagner's primary concern was the welfare of his workers. Having 4 different locations, he was able to keep all 250 employees and reassign them to another location.
     And he says the new sawmill, will make everything run smoothly, again.
     Wagner says they are going to build an even better location and most importantly with fire protection. 
     "The building over there with the red steel..that one of our new components with the sawmill," said Wagner. "That's where our lumber ends up."
     And this 10 million dollar project includes a sprinkler system that holds more than 150,000 gallons of water, and will replace lost equipment that was 20 years old with more energy efficient machines.
     Wagner says they're hoping to have the new sawmill rebuilt and ready to go by next spring.