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Baseefa Ltd

Authorities to investigate explosion and fire at British Columbia sawmill

24 July 2013

Carrier Lumber of Prince George in British Columbia experienced a small explosion and fire in its planer mill on July 22, injuring a worker. This happened on the same day another sawmill in the town, Lakeland Mills, held an official groundbreaking ceremony for a new mill after the original was destroyed in an explosion in April 2012 that killed 2, injured 24 and made 150 redundant. 

The Lakeland Mills explosion was only three months after a similar fatal blast destroyed Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, BC, triggering an in-depth inquiry into sawmill safety in the province.

The worker injured in the incident suffered minor burns. The province's occupational safety agency, WorkSafeBC, said it would fully investigate the incident.

Speaking to the Prince George Citizen newsaper, Carrier Lumber president Bill Kordyban said: “It was an explosion within the planer blower pipe, which transports dry shavings down a 30-inch pipe into a separate building off to the side called the blower building, and that's where the explosion happened. The building is clean so there was no secondary explosion, it was a primary explosion contained within the pipe and that's all there was to the chain of events in this incident.”

A smouldering fire from a previous incident seems to have not been extinguished and when the production system was restarted, it led to the explosion within the large pipe, he said.

Kordyban credits regular daily and weekly wood dust cleanups with helping prevent a more-harmful secondary dust explosion. An initial or primary explosion can disturb fine dust that has accumulated in areas such as rafters, which once airborne can cause the more harmful secondary explosion. The mill also has misters to reduce levels of airborne wood dust.

The Vancouver Sun reported last week that during recent inspections of 150 sawmills, 25 were cited for wood dust accumulations that posed a fire or explosion risk. Carrier Lumber was not among those cited.

The last wood-dust inspection report for Carrier Lumber seven months ago showed combustible wood dust levels were below permissible levels, according to the WorkSafeBC report.

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