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UPDATED: Spontaneous combustion sparks large fire at OSB mill

A pile of tree bark spontaneously combusted at a wood processing plant near Fort St. John early Sunday morning, sparking a blaze that took more than eight hours to contain. The Fort St.

A pile of tree bark spontaneously combusted at a wood processing plant near Fort St. John early Sunday morning, sparking a blaze that took more than eight hours to contain.

The Fort St. John fire department rushed to a fire at the Peace Valley OSB mill at around 4 a.m. Sunday.

The fire began deep in a "hog" pile—a pile of wood material left over from when logs are prepared for processing.

The facility produces oriented strand board, a type of particleboard.

Fort St. John fire chief Fred Burrows said the fire made its way to the surface of the pile and quickly spread, aided by high winds.

Burrows said that as of 3 p.m. Sunday, firefighters were done battling the blaze.

No one was reported to be injured as of Sunday afternoon. 

Burrows said that hog piles run the risk of spontaneous combustion.

"They heat internally like a straw bale does," he said. "It builds up heat and gets hot enough. With the wind we've had, it gradually works its way to the top. It was just massive in size."

Wayne Perry, manager of the plant, said that while fires do spark in hog piles due to natural processes, this is the first time one has grown so large that onsite crews could not contain it.

"This was a freak event," he said. "We've been here for 10 years and this is the first serious fire we've had like this. It was a combination of weather and the pile of material. We are obviously going to look at everything we can do to make sure we don't have another one of these."

He added that winds were "in the 80 to 100 kilometer (per) hour range" the night of the fire.

Two engines and a ladder truck were called out from Fort St. John, as well as crews from the Taylor fire department.

While there was risk the fire could spread to the OSB facility itself or the adjacent lumber mill, crews contained the fire before it could do any damage.  

reporter@dcdn.ca 

— With files from William Stodalka