Lessons From The Fire Line

Perhaps you heard about the fire at a neighboring sawmill in Hazlehurst, GA.

Some historical background: our plant in Hazlehurst was built there in the early 70’s because of Thompson Hardwoods, the plant burned. Originally, they were our sole source of lumber. We’ve been neighbors almost 40 years.

Both businesses have evolved through the years. We no longer use hardwood. They have become a leading grade hardwood and cross tie producer. Thus, our strategic partnership has evolved to a neighborly one.

The fire started from a kiln explosion. Fortunately, no employees were close and the team executed their evacuation plan well. No one injured.

The fire raged for a day as three storage facilities and the entire office complex burned to the ground. The main sawing facilities were spared.

The wind Monday was blowing east. If it had been blowing west, our whole mill would have been endangered. Our team performed well too. They helped protect our property line. Moved inventory away to lessen fire risk. Cleared the way for firefighting equipment to come on our property to attack the fire less than 100 yards away.

There are some lessons to which we should pay attention:

1. We create fire evacuation plans hoping we never need them and execute fire drills wishing we didn’t have to break our routine. But, Monday’s fire reminds us up close the destructive power of combustible flame. We need to be able to execute should the worst happen. It’s life and death.

2. A fire that completely takes one of our plants out would alter significantly our sources of revenue and income for the company and all of its teammates at the facility.

Fire risk increases when our housekeeping is poor.

Fire risk increases when our upkeep and management of equipment is compromised. A spark from a bare wire. A hot spot from a bad bearing. A dripping hose onto a hot service.

Fire risk increases when we ignore safe procedures regarding smoking.

Fire isn’t our friend. Each of us has a responsibility to remain alert for fire risk and to eliminate them.

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PalletOne CEO Howe Wallace
PalletOne Inc.
Company President, Howe Q. Wallace

Since 2005, he has been sharing his thoughts on the organization, leadership, and communication in an online daily note to teammates called Daily with HQ.


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