Maple Ridge firefighters battled a fire Wednesday morning at Valley Kiln and Pattern Ltd., in the industrial area of Lougheed Highway in east Maple Ridge.
The fire started at 10 a.m. in a sawdust bunker in the planer portion of the plant – on 288th Street – that shapes wood into finished lumber.
“The mill had a small fire in the planar portion of the mill that got sucked up into the dust collection system,” said fire chief Dane Spence. “This is a dust collection system that’s designed to suck up the dust and remove it. Some of the hot dust got sucked into the dust collection system.”
John Black of Valley Kiln said that he’s been in the business since 1979, and though he hasn’t seen a bunker fire like this before, he is aware it is common in the industry.
“It happens quite frequently, especially in K3 plants and stuff like that. All their hoppers would have sprinkler systems built inside,” he said. “We don’t at the present here, but we don’t have any water on site, it’s all well water out here.”
The plant was running kiln-dried cyprus wood that still contained embers that were sucked into the dust hopper.
Unlike the dust explosion fire that claimed two lives and injured 20 others at Burns Lake in 2012, Spence made it clear that this fire is much more common and much less dangerous.
To put out the flames, firefighters emptied the hopper and doused the flames as the sawdust fell out.
“When the hopper was dumped there was lots of flames,” Spence said. “But the tubing’s metal, the actual bunker itself is all metal, and it’s made to withstand a fire.”
According to Spence, the hopper is 50-60 feet from the main plant. Nobody was hurt.
Black said that no workers were evacuated and the plant will be fully operational again by tomorrow.