Three people were injured during an explosion at a wood pellet plant in Burns Lake, British Columbia last October. Wood pellet plants, like this one, take wood shavings and sawdust and compress them into pellets which can then be used as fuel for broilers or burned in wood stoves for heat. The process of manufacturing wood pellets involves all the right ingredients for explosions and fires to occur with a concerning frequency and the potential to cause serious injuries, damage to property, and interruption of production.

The fire and subsequent explosion at the Pinnacle Wood plant was said to have started inside equipment used to dry wood fiber during a routine maintenance shutdown and was extinguished by the equipment’s built-in fire suppression system. The cause of the fire remains undetermined. We are working to find out more details regarding the incident, but the following thoughts immediately came to mind when we heard about it:

  • If the plant was on shutdown, meaning normal production would have been shut down, what was the source of the heat and fuel?
  • If the explosion did occur inside a wood fiber dryer, and the dryer was shut down, what was the heat source? Was there hot work being done in the area or on the equipment while failing to adequately clean out the equipment and remove all combustible dust or fibers beforehand?
  • If there really was an explosion, how is it that the equipment’s fire suppression system was able to still function and suppress the fire?
  • Was this really a flash fire and not an explosion?

We hope to be able to find answers to the questions above. We will continue to monitor this incident and provide updates as we find out more.