Decommissioned high-level ventilation at Sonae's Knowsley, U.K., particleboard plant created effect of 'big oven' in eight-day fire, says fire chief

LOS ANGELES , September 9, 2011 () – A fire at Sonae's particleboard factory in Knowsley, U.K. which burned for eight days turned the site into an oven, chief fire officer Dan Stephens has told the Merseyside Fire Authority.

Stephens said the peeling of the paint on the factory's metal roof demonstrated that the temperature at roof level was between 600 and 800 degrees centigrade, the Liverpool Echo reported on Sept. 7.

Stephens said high-level ventilation at the plant was decommissioned some years ago, and this had essentially created the effect of a big oven. With no room for heat to escape it rises, Stephens said, then it travels back down the walls and impinges on the product - in this case burning wood chips.

Firefighters sprayed water onto woodchips on a conveyor belt in the early stages of the blaze, but the damp pulp created a blockage which eventually made the fire worse when Sonae staff tried to clear it.

Firefighters then left the building to burn as this was seen as the safest and most environmentally-friendly course of action.

The primary source of this article is the Liverpool Echo, Liverpool, U.K., on Sept. 7, 2011.

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