LAWTEY, Fla. (WCJB) -- A large fire at Tatum Sawmill in Lawtey Monday has shut down nearby roads and prompted a large emergency response.
The Tatum Brothers Sawmill has been in Lawtey for 50 years. The sawmill is located at 22796 NW Co Rd 200A, Lawtey, FL 32058.
A family business burned to the ground.
“It's hard to explain. It's an emptiness and a little form of shock.” Tommy Tatum III said.
Tatum grew up on a family-owned sawmill in Lawtey.
Now it's torched from a large fire.
“One minute we got a sawmill. 20 minutes later, I get a call that we got one burning and now we don't got a sawmill, it's almost a total disaster,” Tatum said.
The fire started around 12pm near County Road 200 when most of the employees were out at lunch.
officials tell us they think it was either a mechanical or electrical fire that may have started with an air compressor.
"One employee ran to get a fire extinguisher. tried to knock the fire down himself and it got away from him too quickly,” Lt. Raymond Shuford from the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office said.
The staff evacuated and fortunately no one was hurt.
More than 50 employees may be out of a job.
“They'll all be here in the morning, so we'll see what we do then,” Tatum said.
The fire department did end up saving the main shop at the mill.
Early last month, first responders were called out to the same sawmill for a different fire.
They still don't know what started that one.
Tatum also tells us that the business did not have any fire insurance.
The family will be taking it day by day to hopefully bring back the business they worked so hard for.
"I guess we could do it again. We got good maintenance people and we got good people, period. People work for us 30 years so I guess we wanna build it back we can,” Tatum said.
Fire officials still don't know what exactly caused the fire.
They will be investigating it throughout the next few days.