British Columbia

Wood pellet fire in Prince George expected to burn for rest of week

A fire sparked four days ago at a wood pellet plant in Prince George is expected to burn for the rest of the week, coinciding with a smoky skies bulletin issued for the city, as a result of wildfires burning in the south.

Silo smoulders at the same time as wildfire smoke drifts into the city

Wood pellets have been burning inside a storage silo south of Prince George since Aug. 24, charring the container and shutting down production at the Pacific BioEnergy plant. The fire is expected to continue to burn for the rest of the week. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

A fire sparked four days ago at a wood pellet plant in Prince George is expected to burn for the rest of the week.

The news comes at the same time as a smoky skies bulletin caused by wildfires in the southern Interior has been expanded to include the City of Prince George.

Pacific BioEnergy spokesperson Kevin Brown said the fire was discovered the morning of Aug. 24, after unusually high temperatures were recorded inside a wood pellet storage silo in the BCR industrial area southeast of the downtown core.

Brown called the burning a "fire but no flame."

"I've equated what it might look like inside the silo to the aftermath of a campfire ... with the glow at the bottom of the fire pit," he explained. 

To extinguish the fire, crews have been slowly emptying the silo and hosing the pellets off, one batch at a time.

Members of Prince George Fire Rescue are also on site to assist.

Impact on air quality not measured

Gail Roth, an air quality meteorologist with B.C.'s Ministry of Environment said smoke from wildfires burning further south make it difficult to measure what, if any, impact the burning pellets are having on air quality in Prince George.

"The direction that we see smoke coming from the wildfire is the same direction as the facility," she said, adding the smoke from the pellets would have the same health risks as smoke from wildfires or campfires. 

The day after the pellet fire started, Prince George was removed from the smoky skies bulletin issued by the province but was re-added to the list of cities covered by the bulletin Monday morning.

Brown said roughly 3,400 tonnes of pellets can be stored inside the silo, though it's unclear how many are currently burning.

He also said it's not yet known what started the fire.

"That investigation will start once the situation has been extinguished," he said.

With files from Betsy Trumpener