British Columbia

Prince George fire under control, state of emergency lifted

Prince George is under a state of emergency after a rash of fires at an industrial site.

Officials in Prince George, B.C., have lifted a state of local emergency after a major fire that destroyed a plywood mill was brought under control Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor declared a state of emergency after three separate fires broke out at the B.C.R. industrial site in the south end of the city Monday evening and a fourth fire broke out at a small business downtown.

City spokesman Kevin Brown described the fires as the largest combined fire incident in the history of the Central Interior B.C. city.

"There's been four major fire incidents in the last 12 hours here in Prince George. And of course as the sun comes up at this hour in the day, there's lots of smoke in the air. We're just about 12 hours into this situation and crews are still busy at the Interior Warehousing fire on Great Street," said Brown.

The first fire broke out at Canfor’s North Central Plywood Division mill about 6 p.m. PT Monday. Workers said the blaze appears to have started in one of the plant's three veneer dryers but quickly spread across the roof.

Firefighters battled the flames for hours but eventually had to withdraw to defensive positions as flames consumed the entire building.

At least two people were treated for smoke inhalation but all 40 workers believed to be in the plant at the time managed to get out safely. 

"It was heavy black smoke, and we could see the flames coming from the roof 10 feet (three metres) high. It literally looks like a bomb went off inside that building," said Fran Wonner, whose husband works for Canfor.

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'I watched this fire and it was massive.'


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Fire officials believe burning embers from that fire then spread to the Interior Warehousing facility about two kilometres away and to a pile of railway ties at the CN rail storage area around midnight, starting two more fires in the industrial area.

Meanwhile downtown, the McInnis Lighting store also caught fire. It was not clear if that fire was linked to the other three, but fire crews quickly extinguished it.

There are no reports of any injures, but as of 7 a.m. the three fires at the industrial site were still burning. The Canfor plywood plant was destroyed and more buildings could face the same fate.

The damage from the fires is expected to put several hundred people out of work.

Initially, police shut down Highway 97 and forced anyone in the area to leave immediately. Police later reopened the highway, but roads in the industrial site remained closed as of 7 a.m.