Editor’s note: Updated with quotes from Interfor’s GM of Kootenays and Grand Forks’ fire chief.
Given the nature of mill fires in Prince George and Burns Lake, there was concern when a fire broke out at the International Forest Products Limited (Interfor) mill last week.
Grand Forks Fire Rescue responded to the fire at Grand Forks’ Interfor mill at around 5:45 p.m. on May 22 but fortunately, the fire was quickly contained.
“It (was) a fire in our shavings bin,” explained Andrew Horahan, Interfor’s general manager of Kootenays on May 22. “It was contained within a steel bin. Luckily the fire department seems to have it put out.”
“It appears as if it was caused by (mechanical) friction in the bin,” Horahan would later say.
Grand Forks Fire Rescue Chief Dale Heriot said that when they arrived on scene, there was a full-blown fire in the east half of the bin but confirmed that the fire was contained within the shavings bin.
“As we got on scene, we put the monitor from the ladder on it and some hand lines and got it cooled down enough so we could get up top and put some water in from the lids up top,” Heriot said.
“We suspect the surface layer of the sawdust was burning and as we dumped the sawdust out, we just wet it to make sure there were no embers left to light the pile on fire.”
While the Prince George and Burns Lake fires were tragic, Grand Forks’ fire chief said the May 22 fire wasn’t as dangerous, although there was potential for more damage.
“The danger level wasn’t as high as some other fires, mostly because it was in a metal bin that was isolated and also isolated away from the plant,” Heriot explained, adding that it was a mid-level fire and if the fire protection system in the blower pipes failed and had the blower system not been shut down, there was a chance that the fire could’ve spread to other areas of the plant.
Horahan said the Grand Forks mill had been working hard to remove all accumulated sawdust, as per a recent WorkSafeBC edict.
“WorkSafe inspected our facility and Grand Forks was found to be in complete compliance on the first visit,” he explained.