A second fire in the past few months at Tolko’s Athabasca Division OSB mill has caused a disruption of production. At least that’s the word from a couple of sources; the mill hadn’t responded to calls by press time.
No doubt mill staff have a lot on their minds. According to acting fire chief Alex Pavcek, the fire was in the “blending” area of the plant. This is where the chips that are the main component of oriented strandboard are formed into what become the OSB sheets. They are very hot at this point, having just come out of the drying bins. A spark can cause a fire and that’s apparently what happened.
“They have very good fire (suppression) systems,” Pavcek says. “But if it gets too hot….”
It did get too hot. There were electrical problems and a lot of smoke, which made it harder to fix things and the problems compounded, Pavcek says.
Regional Fire Service crews responded from four halls, at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 28. Pavcek says they were there until about 1:30 the next morning, working with the Tolko people on getting things under control.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” Pavcek says.
One reason it was so tough is some of the work had to be done up high in the building, which was full of smoke. The air tanks worn by firefighters (and millwrights attempting repairs, apparently) were good for 45 minutes only, so there was a lot of rotating of personnel.