Fire destroys Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, British Columbia, injuring at least 19 employees plus two unaccounted for; CEO of owner Hampton Affiliates says company will not speculate on cause

PORTLAND, Oregon , January 23, 2012 (press release) – Hampton Affiliates, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and is sad to report that a tragic accident occurred at their Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, British Columbia.

At about 8 p.m. on January 20th, several Babine employees called 911 to report a serious accident at the sawmill. It is believed that an explosion occurred, resulting in a fire that completely destroyed the sawmill. The planer mill apparently survived the fire. At the time of the accident there were approximately 60 employees on the site, including 37 in the sawmill.

At least 19 employees required some medical care and the most serious cases are being treated at area hospitals including Burns Lake, Smithers, Prince George, Vancouver and Edmonton. In addition to these injuries, some which are critical, two employees were unaccounted for at the time of this release.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to our employees, their families and their supportive community. We have had an overwhelming outpouring of support from the community, government leaders, labor, contractors and our competitors,” said Steve Zika, Hampton CEO who is on site to assess the damage and monitor the investigation.

“At this time our focus is on caring for our injured and grieving employees. We are not speculating on the cause of the accident and will let the proper authorities complete their investigation. No decisions will be made on restarting the planer mill or rebuilding the sawmill until more facts are known and our employees are properly cared for,” Zika added.

Hampton Affiliates is a family-owned forest products business headquartered in Portland, Oregon, employing about 1,600 people primarily in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Hampton owns approximately 93,000 acres of timberland, managed on a sustainable basis, certified through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and eight sawmills in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia with normal lumber production capacity in excess of 2.3 billion board feet. The Babine Forest Products sawmill is a joint venture operated in conjunction with the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation of Burns Lake. Hampton also has wholesale and distribution operations that deliver building products to customers all over the world.

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