On Sunday, May 12, at approximately 1 a.m. a fire occurred at Integrated Biomass Resources in Wallowa. No one was present at the mill and there were no injuries associated with the fire. The exact cause of the fire is unknown at this time.
Integrated Biomass Resources is an existing small diameter mill, located just outside Wallowa at the former Rogge mill site, dedicated to developing value-added products from small-diameter trees, including posts, poles, bundled firewood, pulp chips, short saw logs, energy, and biochar. Over nearly a decade of operation, IBR has increased small wood utilization and forest restoration, reduced the cost of forest management by creating value for restoration residuals, and supported Wallowa County through the creation of 25 jobs.
IBR is thought by some to be a key player in the economic development of Wallowa County.
The fire originated in the vicinity of a firewood processor and spread to a hydraulic fluid tank that resulted in a high intensity fire that caused significant damage to the surrounding equipment. Fortunately,the fire did not spread extensively beyond this localized area thanks to the efforts of local fire fighters, including Jeffrey Wecks, the Fire Chief of the Joseph Fire Department. Jeffrey and his family happened to be returning home from out of the County and driving on highway 82 soon after the fire began. Spotting the fire, he drove to the site, called 911, and initiated the firefighting effort which limited the damage.
While the fire certainly creates a challenge for IBR going into the summer season, the damaged equipment and infrastructure will be rebuilt and operations will continue, as will the benefits that IBR brings to the community and our surrounding forestlands. IBR would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Wallowa, Lostine, Enterprise and Joseph Fire Departments.