In the wee early morning hours of Halloween on Thursday, October 31, 2013, the downtown community of Erin received news of a devastating fire of unknown cases that completely destroyed the historic water-powered lumber mill at the intersection of Main Street and Millwood Road. As firefighters responded to the scene shortly before 2:30 AM, their efforts of pouring water from two converging sides did little to save the already smoldering and gutted wood structure with its metal roof. Not only did the fire consume the entirety of the mill, it burned two flat-deck trucks and a forklift parked adjacent to the building overnight.
When asked about the engulfing fire after responding to a 911 call from the neighbor Peter Brumm who was awakened from his slumber by the bright orange glow, Fire Chief Dan Callaghan stated that Ontario Fire Marshal investigators have been called in from nearby Gravenhurst to investigate the causes behind the fire. Although the estimated loss from the fire could not be provided immediately, Callaghan remarked that “the historic machinery is obviously non-replaceable; it is a huge loss to the community.” From his perspective, the Fire Chief hypothesized that the fire was ignited within an addition on the northwest end that had the whole mill up in flames within minutes.
Long-term Mundell Lumber employee Bob Kirkwood who has worked for the business for over 17 years stated that the mill’s heyday had long gone. Once a grist mill built in the 1830s powered by water from the Credit River by the Mundell family for over a century, the mill was recently downgraded for use as a storage shed rather than for lumber milling. Though down from 60 employees at one time, Kirkwood admitted that the Erin mill was the last water-powered belt-driven mill in Ontario and maybe even Canada. Although investigators are still uncovering the exact cause of this fire, it is without a doubt that the community has suffered a tremendous historical loss.