British Columbia

Possible ignition sources at B.C. sawmill fires found

WorkSafeBC has released new information about the possible causes of two fires at B.C. sawmills this year.

4 killed in mill fires in B.C. this year

Two people were killed in a sawmill fire in Prince George, B.C., last month (Andrew Johnson/Canadian Press)

WorkSafeBC says the possible ignition source of two fires at B.C. sawmills this year appears to have been located at the conveyor level, where electrical or mechanical equipment was being operated in contained areas.

In a statement released Monday, WorkSafeBC said the conveyor level is located in the basements or lower levels of the mills, so investigators are looking closely at those areas.

WorkSafeBC says these are similarities observed during the investigations that may be coincidental but can't be ignored. However, investigators stressed "no final conclusions have been reached with respect to cause and underlying factors."

4 killed in mill fires this year

In January, two people were killed in an explosion and fire at the Babine Forest Products mill near Burns Lake, B.C.

In April, two people were killed in an explosion at the Lakeland sawmill in Prince George, B.C.

The causes of the fires have not been officially identified by safety inspectors, but experts are looking at the possibility that a high concentration of wood dust in the air fuelled the massive explosion and resulting fire.

After the second fire, the provincial government ordered all B.C. sawmills to remove accumulated sawdust.

WorkSafeBC’s officers have been ensuring sawmill employers are in compliance as outlined in the order.

In their initial visits, officers are conducting walk-through inspections of all sawmills and all associated site facilities.

In their follow-up inspections, the officers will be assessing the hazard identification and risk assessments that employers are required to have; and reviewing the compliance plans along with any interim measures to address immediate safety concerns.

Officers will be paying particular, but not exclusive, attention to areas similar to those identified in the Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills investigations.