Lafferty & Co. owner vows to carry on after lumber yard blaze
It may not be business as usual, but the owners of a Lemoyne lumber yard say they will be back in business Wednesday following a devastating fire.
Not just in business, but in business with all 20 employees, Lafferty & Co. Inc. co-owner Chuck Felak said.
"That is our intention," Felak said Tuesday afternoon during an interview inside one of two buildings left standing after flames tore through the century-old provider of kiln-dried lumber products. The Monday night blaze destroyed 14 other structures and much of the company's stock.
No injuries were reported in the multi-alarm conflagration, which also damaged a motorcycle shop next door.
Firefighters from three counties responded to the fire in the 1100 block of Hummel Avenue, which broke out around 9:30 p.m. and sent towering columns of flame into the night skies. Crews were still hosing down the piles of smoldering lumber a day later.
Efforts to reach a chief with the West Shore Bureau of Fire were not immediately successful.
Felak said the business was closed for the night when the fire broke out, and no employees were on the property at the time.
Borough resident Emily Winslow was home watching the Steelers/Redkins game nearby when her power went out around 10 p.m. She went outside to see if others also had lost power.
"I walked to the end of my block and you could see a building burning and the flames shooting up," said Winslow, an event coordinator for BridgeTower Media/Central Penn Business Journal.
Winslow saw ladder trucks spraying water down onto the fire, and was able to walk close enough to the scene to see that Vicious Cycles Inc., next door to the lumber business, was heavily damaged.
Power was restored shortly after 11 p.m., Winslow said. PPL Electric Utility Crews could be seen working in the area Tuesday afternoon.
Next door to the cycle shop is Blue Dog Pet Shop. That building appeared undamaged from the outside, but was closed on Tuesday afternoon.
A woman who answered the phone at Haas Printing Co., a nearby business in the 1000 block of Hummel Avenue, said that company did not sustain any damage, but did close for the day.
Lafferty & Co. is located between Hummel Avenue and a busy railroad line, which also was affected by the fire and its aftermath.
"The fire has impacted train operations in the area, and we’ve been working with first responders to address their concerns and maintain a high level of safety," Norfolk Southern Corp. spokesman Dave Pidgeon said Tuesday morning.
"We don’t typically address how incidents like this specifically impact NS operations. However, I can say that part of operating a safe rail network is to be attuned to emergency responders and their needs during an the incident like this, as well as being attentive to the safety of the train crews and customer cargo," Pidgeon added.
Railroad workers could be seen with equipment out on the line later Tuesday afternoon.
Planning for the future
Founded in 1915, according to its website, Lafferty's products range from rough lumber to custom moulding and trim.
Felak said the Lafferty family ran the business for two generations, before selling it about 30 years ago. He and his business partner, Jason McMurray, bought it from the second owners in December 2012.
While much of the property and stock was lost, Felak said the business's kilns survived. Thanks to mobile phones and computers, he said the company will begin to rebuild, working offsite as needed.
"We've been fortunate. Our employees are excellent people," Felak said
So, too, he added, are the customers, vendors and even some competitors who have made offers of assistance while the company looks to bounce back.
"We should be up and running again tomorrow," he said.