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Huge fire turns sawmill to ashes

Fire fighters saved giant wooden shoe from burning

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

STEEN, Minnesota — A giant wooden shoe, maybe even North America’s largest, is all that survived a at the sawmill operated by third-generation Dutch American Erwin Bonestroo and his wife Jan. FTB Sawmill, which among others things, creates one-of-a-kind furniture and fireplace mantels from discarded wood, was completely destroyed recently in a disastrous fire. Fire fighters tried moving the wooden shoe out of the way, but could not. Instead, they just kept it wet.

Fire fighters from at least five other towns in the vicinity responded to the Steen emergency but were unable to save anything but the unfinished Dutch heritage symbol. Just in tools and equipment alone, the Bonestroos suffered a loss of around $250,000. No estimates on the replacement value of the burnt buildings were available. Bonestroo’s company was only insured for business interruption.

A fire is the last thing the Bonestroos expected at their sawmill, saying they kept a tidy operation and left no milling waste lying around. The electrical also was up to date.

At the age of 60, Bonestroo has few options for a restart since banks are reluctant to lend to small operators of his age. Volunteers in the region have no such inhibitions and have started a fundraising campaign to help ease the Bonestroos back in business.

The giant wooden shoe had been ordered by Tulip Festival of Orange City, Iowa, which meanwhile has turned it into a children’s attraction. Located at the city’s Windmill Park, the wooden shoe is a very unique object for photography when one’s children have so much fun with (their) Dutch roots. Bonestroo still needs to give the wooden shoe his finishing touches.