Marshal: Cause of Seneca Hardwood blaze not known

From staff reports

The cause of the massive blaze that consumed and destroyed the Seneca Hardwood Lumber Co. building last month will never be known.

Jeffery Cross, a state police fire marshal based at the Franklin barracks, said Tuesday “the firefighters pushed the burning lumber into a huge pile with excavators so there was nothing left for me to look at to determine the cause of the fire.”

“The firefighters were trying to save the rest of the buildings at that point. They did a good job containing the fire,” Cross added.

The blaze at Seneca Hardwood broke out at about 8:30 p.m. Aug. 13. The building was unoccupied at the time.

Dozens of fire companies and hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze well into the early morning hours of Aug. 14 at the business, which has been owned by generations of the Hepler family since 1959.

The fire then reignited at about 7 a.m. on Aug. 14, just about a half hour after the last firefighters had cleared the scene after spending about 10 hours there.

At least 14 fire departments from Venango, Clarion and Butler counties responded the morning of Aug. 14 to lumber that was burning and threatening to ignite part of a building on the Seneca Hardwood complex that had escaped the enormous fire the night before.

Rockland was the lead department at the scene during the fire.

Seneca Hardwood started out 61 years ago as a small mill supplying hardwood products to regional customers. It grew over the years into a nationwide supplier of hardwood products, and its primary focus in recent times has been as a manufacturer of hardwood flooring.