British Columbia

Pinnacle wood pellet plant fire injures 3 near Burns Lake

A fire at the Pinnacle wood pellet plant near Burns Lake, B.C., has injured three people.
The Pinnacle wood pellet plant, near Burns Lake, B.C. (CBC)

Three people were taken to hospital after fire broke out at the Pinnacle wood pellet plant near Burns Lake, B.C. around 8:23 a.m. PT on Thursday.

According to a statement released by the Village of Burns Lake the fire broke out in one of the drying units at the plant.

"When the responders arrived at the pellet plant they found that the fire had been completely extinguished by the plant’s built-in suppression system," said a statement released by the village on Thursday.

"The crew used their heat sensing equipment to address small hot spots in the dryer, and assisted ambulance attendants with the injured workers.

"Three workers were transported to Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre. Two patients with minor injuries are being transferred to the University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George and one patient is being transferred to Vancouver."

According to Burns Lake RCMP Cpl. Dave Tyreman, the rest of plant was also cleared out.

"At the time of the fire, the mill was shut down and all employees evacuated — approximately 30 people to a safe area," wrote Tyreman in a news release.

The equipment at the mill was not significantly damaged by the fire.

WorkSafeBC prevention officers are on the way to the Pinnacle Renewable Energy Plant.

Firm fined over combustible dust

According to a list of recent penalties on the WorkSafeBC website, the same firm was fined $48,838.01 earlier this year after hazardous levels of dust were found in the main pellet plant building.

The document states that the dust accumulations "were close to or in direct contact with potential ignition hazards. 

"The firm’s failure to control and remove hazardous accumulations of combustible dust that could cause a fire or explosion was a repeated and high-risk violation."

Speaking to CBC News, Pinnacle Energy CEO Leroy Reitsma denied the fire was caused by dust.

"The event itself occurred in a piece of processing equipment, so it is not the result of an external accumulation of combustible dust," said Reitsma.

Reitsma said the fire took place while operations were down. The firm’s own investigation team is also attending the scene, he said.

According to Pinnacle Renewable Energy's website, the company operates six B.C. pellet plants, in Burns Lake, Houston, Meadowbank, Quesnel, Williams Lake and Armstrong.

The plant's location near Burns Lake led initially to incorrect reports of a fire or explosion at the same site as the Babine Forest Products mill explosion, which claimed two lives and injured 19 others in 2012.

However, it has now been confirmed the fire occurred at the Pinnacle plant.

Google Map: Co-ordinates of Pinnacle wood pellet plant near Burns Lake, B.C.