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Another Boise fire

This one, in Elgin, could affect Medford

Boise Cascade officials say they haven't determined what effect, if any, Tuesday's fire at an Elgin plywood mill will have on the company's operations around Oregon, including those in Medford and White City.

It's still too early to tell, said Bob Smith, Boise Cascade's Medford-based spokesman for Western Oregon.

The damage to the Elgin mill isn't as extensive as first feared.

We didn't lose the whole plant, regional spokesman David Fratzke said Wednesday from the northeastern Oregon town of 1,715.

The fire, which started around noon Tuesday, appears to have damaged only two of the mill's dryers and the plant maintenance shop. The green end of the plant, where veneer is produced, appears to have suffered only some water and electrical damage. The finish end, where plywood is pressed, appears to have escaped damage.

The mill, built in 1964, employs 175 people. Fratzke said the company hoped to have one shift on the green end up next week and add others soon. He said workers temporarily displaced by the fire may be shifted to Boise's stud mill in Elgin and two mills in La Grande.

Tuesday's fire comes less than a year after the Medford plywood mill burned to the ground, putting 450 people out of work.

Boise decided to rebuild a portion of the mill and began construction in March. Smith said the rebuilding effort is on schedule and the hope is to reopen the mill by Aug. 1. It will employ about 200 people initially with the company looking to add 50-60 by year's end.

The plant will dry veneer, the sheets used to produce plywood, and prepare the laminated veneer panels that Boise Cascade uses at its White City plant to make laminated veneer lumber.

The company is still considering a second phase of rebuilding the Medford mill that would boost the number of jobs to about 330. A decision wasn't expected until next year and Smith said it's too early to tell whether the Elgin fire will prompt the company to decide on the expansion earlier.