Hampton Affiliates may have to take downtime at sawmill in Darrington, Washington, after March 22 mudslide in Oso blocked highway; fuel and extra drivers for detour are expected to add US$500,000/month to costs

Wendy Lisney

Wendy Lisney

Apr 2, 2014 – Industry Intelligence Inc.

LOS ANGELES , April 2, 2014 () – Hampton Affiliates may be forced to take temporary downtime at its Darrington Division in Washington, after a fatal landslide at Oso on March 22 blocked Highway 530.

CEO Steve Zika said the sawmill trucks in logs and ships out lumber, wood chips and sawdust, The Herald Business Journal reported. Zika estimated that the closure of the highway would add about a half million dollars a month for extra fuel costs and to pay for additional truck drivers.

Zika said there was a chance that the mill would take some downtime if lumber prices continued to drop, although the company was hoping to avoid that. He noted that the loss of US$500,000 per month would be hard for the company to bear given the soft lumber market and harsh winter.

On March 31, Gov. Jay Inslee wrote to President Barack Obama asking for federal aid for the sawmill, which employs 130 directly and supports more than 300 jobs in the community.

Inslee estimated the detour through Skagit County added up to two hours each way. He said a small change in overhead from the four-hour detour could drive up costs, making the company's products noncompetitive and jeopardizing its 300 plus jobs in Darrington.

Zika said he was stunned about the devastation from the landslide and said the last thing his company wanted to do was worry about the road reopening when the search for victims was continuing. He added that none of Hampton's employees died in the landslide, but one lost his house. Several employees had lost relatives, and former lumber stacker Summer Raffo, 36, was killed.

Zika noted that about a quarter of the sawmill's workers faced longer commutes to work, and that employees throughout the company had donated money for the relief effort.

Hampton Affiliates, based in Portland, Ore., has operations in Oregon, Washington and Canada, and has owned the former Summit Timber mill in Darrington since 2002.

The primary source of this article is the Herald Business Journal, Everett, Washington, on April 1, 2014.

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