Fire damages Geneva Wood Fuels' wood pellet plant in Strong, Maine, but does not appear to have affected equipment; production expected to restart within a few days, says CEO

LOS ANGELES , February 27, 2012 () –

Geneva Wood Fuels LLC is expected to soon restart its wood pellet plant in Strong, Maine, following a fire there on Feb. 23, reported the Morning Sentinel on Feb. 24.

Although the extent of the damages was unknown at the time, it appears that the plant’s equipment was not affected and that the fire was contained to the roof and the upper floor of the building, according to a Feb. 23 statement from company CEO Jonathan Kahn.

“We expect to begin cleanup and repair work this evening and hope to resume production within a few days," he said in the statement posted on Geneva Wood Fuels’ website.

The company planned to do an internal review of the fire to determine the cause and find “ways to be even better prepared” for such incidents should they occur in the future, said Kahn.

Employees discovered hot embers falling from the ceiling at about 8 a.m. on Feb. 23. The 10 people working there at the time quickly evacuated the building, and no injuries were reported.

Firefighters had the blaze extinguished by 10:30 a.m., said Strong Fire Chief Duayne Boyd.

The State Fire Marshall’s Office plans to investigate the fire, although it is not considered suspicious.

Investigators believe the blaze began in an empty storage section that was added on to the plant after an explosion there in 2009, said Boyd, reported the Morning Sentinel.

After the 2009 explosion, which idled the plant for a year, Geneva Wood Fuels undertook various safety precautions, said Justin Moran, the company’s director of sales and marketing. He declined to discuss details of the explosion.

The company paid US$15,000 for workplace safety citations issued after the 2009 explosion, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), although the agency's area director in Maine William Coffin said on Feb. 23 the violations had since been fixed, the Morning Sentinel reported.

The plant has the capacity to produce in excess of 80,000 tons of hardwood fuel pellets per year and employs 15 people directly and another 50 indirectly in forest harvesting and distribution, according to the company’s website.

The primary source of this article is the Morning Sentinel, Waterville, Maine, on Feb. 24, 2012.


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