The impacts of a fire that destroyed production at a key lumber processing plant in Amador County and left 150 workers unemployed last week are being felt in Tuolumne County, and some displaced workers may find new jobs in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, job placement and union officials said. Monday.
The July 25 fire at Ampine LLC, 11610 Ampine-Fibreform Road, between Jackson and Sutter Creek, destroyed custom production machinery at the plant, said John Belperio, northern district manager for the NorCal Carpenters Union, which represents the majority of Ampine’s 150 displaced workers. Monday in telephone interview.
NorCal Carpenters Union also represents at least a handful of signatory contractors in construction in Tuolumne County, Belperio said.
Ampine is a division of Timber Products Company of Springfield, Oregon. The company manufactures particleboard and composite panels, including industrial, moisture-resistant and fire-resistant panels, as well as panels with stronger physical properties.
Certain Ampine products may be used in cabinets, countertops, furniture components, casework, shelving, retail fixtures, office furniture, underlayments and stair treads.
Displaced Ampine employees include tradespeople, electricians, millwrights, machine operators and equipment operators, and finding them employment in the construction industry, where most members of the NorCal Carpenters Union is going to be tough, Belperio said.
“We have to be creative,” Belperio said. “We have everyone’s phone numbers and contact details, and we’re trying to find the best ways to connect those people with opportunities, either on the construction side or in other industrial shops that we represent.”
Belperio said he was at the Ampine plant on Friday when management called a meeting for workers. The equipment that was damaged in the factory was custom and it will take years to get the factory back up and running, Belperio said.
“They didn’t say whether or not they were planning to rebuild because they couldn’t come in to see the damage,” Belperio said. “But the entire production section of the factory is gone. At present, they do not know if they plan to rebuild.
“First of all, we are grateful that no one was injured or killed in the fire,” Belperio said. “We have a relief fund for people who have lost their homes to fires in recent years, and for workers and their families affected by COVID during factory closures, so we are looking to make financial assistance available. immediate. It’s going to be tough on people waiting for unemployment benefits.
Many businesses and employers in the local Amador County community have reached out to Ampine workers, including the Jackson Rancheria of the Me-Wuk Indians of California, Belperio said. He said some employers have already offered jobs to some displaced Ampine workers, and he hailed the community support so far as “absolutely incredible”.
Chris Knowles, a spokesman for Timber Products, said Tuesday the company is likely “months away” from a decision on what to do with Ampine’s site.
Knowles said the company is still investigating the cause of the fire and will pay all employees until mid-August, when it will retain about 15 to 25 for work at the site.
“We are exploring opportunities with others internally as we have another particleboard plant which we have moved to 24/7 operation, so we are looking to fill the additional need for employees in internal,” he said.
Annette Solis Rios, manager of Mother Lode Job Training Amador and Mother Lode Job Training Calaveras, said Monday that she was also attending a rapid response and resource meeting in Ampine outside the burned structures on the grounds of Ampine on Friday as Ampine employees met with management. separately.
“We’ve partnered with Amador County Social Services, Amador County Behavioral Health, and the state Department of Employment Development,” said Solis Rios, speaking by phone from Sutter Creek. “We were able to speak to the majority of employees and provide resources and information to those affected by this fire.”
Mother Lode Job Training, which has offices in Sonora, is planning an Aug. 10 hiring event in Amador County, Solis Rios said. She said she confirmed that various employers and businesses, in the same field as Ampine and in other industries, including employers from Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, will be attending the event. The location of the event has yet to be announced.
The sudden shutdown of production at Ampine has left at least one Tuolumne County company running out of materials and looking to suppliers for alternatives.
“We no longer have to buy the Ampine particleboard shelving that we used to buy through our suppliers,” David Guzman, of Tuolumne, owner and president of Van’s Cabinets & Doors near Soulsbyville, said on Monday during a a telephone interview.
“They were the only manufacturer of this product in California,” said Guzman, who has worked at Van’s Cabinets & Doors since 1985. “Our suppliers got their hands on these products. our business. As a percentage, that’s probably about 10-15% of our business.
Guzman said Monday he met with one of Van’s suppliers earlier on Monday, and an alternative was identified, a multi-density fiber material that can also be used for shelving. He said his supplier had six loads ready for delivery. He said the multi-density fiber material, also known as MDF, is “a nicer product” and “more expensive”. He said he was waiting for his supplier to email him a price list.
Guzman said he understands all of Ampine’s employees are unemployed and it’s likely the Ampine plant will not be rebuilt due to guidelines from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. for new construction.
“They may not be able to rebuild in California,” Guzman said. “We will have to look for another alternative for the shelves, but for all the unemployed at the moment, it is hard for them. They have been working on it in Ampine for years.
No determination of the cause of the fire at the Ampine plant had been released on Monday. News of the July 25 Ampine fire and its impact on workers has spread among employees in the Tuolumne County lumber industry, and there are concerns about what could happen to many jobs. if a facility near Sonora catches fire.
Sierra Pacific Industries, headquartered in Shasta County, employs 330 people in Tuolumne County at two wood product manufacturing sites in Standard and Chinese Camp, and manages more than 72,000 acres of SPI forest land in the county.
Sierra Pacific factories in Tuolumne County have intensive safety programs that include fire prevention, SPI spokesman Mark Luster said Monday. Sierra Pacific’s facilities are designed with automatic sprinkler protection systems, which spray water when one or more heads are activated by a fire.
Fire prevention sprinkler systems are maintained and tested in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association, Luster said. If a fire does break out, sprinkler systems help prevent it from spreading.
Luster emphasized that SPI takes fire threats seriously and noted that on July 1, Sierra Pacific Industries closed all of its lands to public access and recreation due to significant wildfire risk this summer. . SPI maintains weather stations on its lands and uses other data to track and assess wildfire risk and fuel moisture levels. SPI believes in a strong initial attack and around-the-clock efforts to quickly suppress fires, and that blowbacks should only be used on a limited and highly monitored basis. SPI also works with the Forest Service, Cal Fire, and other entities to create fuel cuts on shared landscapes.
Sierra Pacific Industries also recognizes the devastating impact the Ampine plant fire had on the Amador County community and the people who worked at Ampine, Luster said.
“As a community partner, we are working with Motherlode Job Training to facilitate a series of application days for Ampine workers,” Luster said. “We will conduct interviews to fill vacancies in our factories.”