Staff Writer

CONNEAUT -- Criminal charges may result from the huge fire that scorched two acres of trees and destroyed a sawmill operation late Tuesday afternoon, Conneaut officials said.

Law Director Lori Lamer said she expected a report on the big blaze to reach her desk by the end of the week.

"I need to look at the report and review it," she said.

Conneaut Fire Chief Bim Orrenmaa has suggested charges be filed -- if applicable -- regarding the fire and subsequent explosions of diesel fuel and oil, Lamer said.

The incident is still under investigation, Orrenmaa said.

A fire started by loggers clearing timber, east of Route 7 between Welton Road and Gateway Avenue, apparently caused the blaze, firefighters said. After the men had left, an ember reportedly set fire to a shed and then a nearby sawmill, causing an estimated $50,000 damage to equipment.

Fuel oil and diesel fuel tanks at the scene exploded, spilling their contents on trees, which in turn fed the flames. Fire came within 20 feet of two horses found in a pen, firefighters said. The animals are used to haul logs, firefighters said.

Personnel and equipment from Conneaut and Monroe Township spent more than three hours at the site.

Firefighters said the loggers had been warned a few weeks ago about open burning at their work site.

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