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Thursday 23 March 2017

Scores of jobs at risk after plant destroyed by fire

Paul Melia and Mark Kennedy

UP to 130 jobs could be at risk after a fire caused extensive damage to a wood processing plant in Co Wicklow early yesterday morning.

The blaze at the Woodfab premises in Aughrim was spotted by a passing taxi driver at 1.30am. It caused serious damage to the processing mill.

Owner of the family-run business, John Brady, said last night the cause of the blaze was unknown. He added he could be forced to lay off workers.

The plant directly employs 65 workers, and has 70 more contracted to harvest wood and ship the finished products.

"We know where it was but we have no idea what caused it," he said. "It's bad. The main processing unit is gone. I don't really know (what's going to happen). I'm still in a state of shock.

"I don't know how many jobs can be saved in the short term. We don't know how many layoffs there will be.

"It's very bad news for the local area. There's not much else in Aughrim. We harvest all our logs in the forest and they (contractors) depend on us for work."

Units of Wicklow Fire Brigade based at Arklow, Carnew, Tinahely and Rathdrum, fought the blaze overnight. There were no injuries, authorities reported.

Woodfab Timber was established in 1974 and is the main employer in Aughrim. Mr Brady's two sons and a nephew work at the plant.

The mill was shut for two weeks for routine maintenance to be carried out. The cause of the blaze is not yet known but a garda source said it was being treated as suspicious.

There were two other fires nearby the same night -- one just a couple of hundred yards from Woodfab at what was formerly known as Fogarty Flour Mills in Aughrim.

Irish Independent

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