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Firefighters save Swift Mill

Fire damage at Swift

The city’s top fireman and the top executive of a local lumber mill praised firefighters from Atmore and three area agencies for their work in bringing a Saturday night fire under control before it got out of hand and ran rampant through the mill.

“The firefighters did an outstanding job of containing it,” said Robin Swift, president of Swift Lumber, of the blaze that erupted inside the business shortly after 11 p.m. “They did an incredible job because it was a hot, hot fire.”

Atmore Fire Department personnel were first on the scene and made a strong initial attack that kept the fire at bay until reinforcements arrived from Poarch, Nokomis and Walnut Hill to help with the fire-suppression effort.

AFD reports show that firefighters fought the blaze for nearly four hours before finally gaining complete control around 3:09 a.m., Sunday.

“All our guys did a great job; they really fought it hard,” agreed AFD Chief Ron Peebles. “And the guys from the other departments, I’ve got to give it to them.

They got right in there with us; they knew what we were doing, and we knew what they were doing. It was a good click.”

Peebles said the nature of the blaze was such that the skills of the multi-agency firefighting team were required to finally tame the flames.

“It was really getting it when we got there,” the fire chief said. “It took a combined effort from everybody to put the fire out. We have a really good mutual aid agreement with each of those departments, and with several other agencies around us.”

Damage was contained to the mill’s saw-filing room, which is located near the center of the lumber milling facility, and its carriage-band saw head rig. Swift said the business should be back to full production capacity by the end of this week, thanks entirely to the firefighting effort.

“Most of the damage was to one of the machines in the center of the mill, and we can run the mill without it,” he said. “If it had spread to any of the other machine centers, it could have shut us down for months. It was a pretty big deal, but it could have been a disaster if not for the job those firefighters did.”