At approximately 11:30 Monday night, an employee making routine safety rounds at Rawlings Bat Factory's sawmill, in Dolgeville, saw, heard and smelled nothing. Shortly before 1:00 am, a Dolgeville police officer on the midnight shift made an exterior check, and saw and reported the fire that would ravage the mill.
"Most of it's pretty much a loss. We don't even know the cause of it yet. It was sudden. Nobody's been here for four days," said Plant Manager, Ron VanderGroef, who got the call shortly after the fire started and was still on scene at 9:30 am. "This our sawmill. This is the beginning part of the process for making baseball bats. This is not our main plant. But this is our sawmill that provides our main plant with its wood to process bats." A collapsed roof left part of the building open and exposed; large tree trunks and logs, visible.
VanderGroef says the plant has time to react to the fire so that service to the end-use customer shouldn't be interrupted.
"We make our wood for bats and we also do buy some, so we're gonna have to lean a little heavier on buying instead of making. It won't really affect customers, I mean, this wouldn't affect customers probaby for another 50-60 days, anyway, so we have a little time to react."
The plant manager says they're trying to find another place for the roughly 10 employees who work in the burned-out mill to perform their jobs, or, another function, until they can rebuild, they hope, on the same spot. The fire brought 50-60 firefighters from at least eight departments to the sawmill. They had the fire under control in about 30 minutes, in spite of many challenges.
"The heat, the humidity. It being a steel structure. Steel building really inhibits our ability because of the way the steel holds the heat in. It's a glorified barnfire is really what it is," said Dolgeville Fire Captain, Mike Shepardson.
Tuesday afternoon, the plant manager said that fire investigators told him, preliminarily, that spontaneous combustion in a blower pipe could be to blame for the fire.