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Fire damages pellet plant

A fire at Pacific Bioenergy on the weekend did significant damage to some areas of the wood-pellet facility.

A fire at Pacific Bioenergy on the weekend did significant damage to some areas of the wood-pellet facility.

"We are continuing to investigate the incident and assess the efforts to effect and complete repairs," Pacific Bioenergy (PacBio) president John Stirling told The Citizen on Tuesday. "No workers were injured. All workers continue to work their regular shifts at the plant."

The incident was detected by employees at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. They carried out the company's emergency response training, and were soon joined by the city's fire department.

Prince George Fire Rescue dispatched 19 firefighters from four halls. Fire crews reported flame and smoke coming from a 120-foot elevator structure when they arrived at the scene. The winds were strong at the time and embers spread to an adjacent building, an electrical control room, where the most significant damage was done. According to Prince George Fire Rescue assistant chief Fred Wilkinson the estimated loss was valued at about $750,000.

Stirling described the fire's initial location as "at the top of a bucket elevator which transports wood pellets" and concurred that it was a strong wind that spread the flames to the nearby electrical room. Firefighters, he said, "responded quickly and were able to rapidly extinguish both fires and stayed on scene for several hours to ensure that no additional incidents developed."

PacBio staff continue to monitor the facility for undetected hotspots, and are checking over the factory's equipment looking for answers to the cause.

Repairs are also in process so operations at PacBio have been modified to fit the maintenance being done, but regular work was soon underway once the all-clear was signaled.

"We are thankful that none of our employees or firefighters were injured in this incident," said Stirling.

"We are proud of the way our employees responded using their training and procedures for handling emergency situations. We thank them and appreciate their diligence through the entire incident. We also thank the PG Fire and Rescue Department for its quick response and effective handling of the situation. We will continue our investigation into what caused the fire and, as always, we are committed to learning from this incident, making improvements and sharing our learning with the industry. Our goal is to get our plant safely back into full operation as soon as possible."