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Canada wood pellet plant explosion injures three

10 October 2014

An explosion at the Pinnacle Renewable Energy wood pellet plant near Burns Lake, British Columbia, on October 9 resulted in three people receiving serious but non-life-threatening injuries, according to a RCMP spokesman. The plant was evacuated after the explosion and about 30 employees were taken to a safe area.

Stock image
Stock image

Firefighters from Burns Lake rushed to the plant but by the time they arrived the flames had been extinguished by its built-in suppression system, according to a statement from the municipality.

Leroy Reitsma, president of the Pinnacle plant, said the fire broke out inside equipment used to dry wood fibre and it caused an explosion.

Pinnacle has been fined on several occasions for safety issues. In May, the pellet plant in Burns Lake was fined $48,483 for a failed safety inspection in December related to combustible dust, while its plant in Strathnaver south of Prince George was fined $36,223, also for safety lapses. Its plant in Quesnel was fined $31,380 following an inspection in May.

The fines were revealed in a Vancouver Sun report that showed seven of 10 wood pellet manufacturers failed WorkSafeBC inspections, according to information obtained through a freedom of information request.

The Burns Lake plant was last inspected on June 17, and no problems were found, a WorkSafeBC spokesman said.

Reitsma said the explosion happened during a routine maintenance shutdown and the company is working with WorkSafeBC to investigate what happened. Speaking to CBC News, Reitsma said that the fire occurred in a piece of processing equipment so was not the result of an external accumulation of combustible dust.

The plant's location is near Burns Lake, where a dust explosion at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in 2012 killed two and injured 19 others.

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