Plum Creek working on repairs to Columbia Falls, Montana, MDF plant with aim of reopening within a month of June 10 fire; spokesman says company plans changes to fire suppression system to avoid any chance of repeat incident

LOS ANGELES , June 24, 2014 () – Plum Creek Timber Co. Inc. is already working towards the reopening its Columbia Falls, Montana, medium density fiberboard (MDF) mill damaged by an explosion and fire on June 10, the Flathead Beacon reported on June 20.

The facility comprises two production lines and produces in total more than 200 mmsf/year of MDF.

As previously reported, Plum Creek suspended operations at the mill while the incident was being investigated. In a June 11 press release, the company stated that all employees had been safely evacuated, with no reported injuries to the 66 workers and two contractors in the building at the time.

Tom Ray, vice president, northwest resources and manufacturing, said in the press release that operations were expected to resume in about 30 days. In the meantime, the company has been selling and shipping from the 10 million feet of inventory stored at the site that was not damaged.

According to the Flathead Beacon, Plum Creek workers and contractors in the past week have been repairing belt lines and ducts destroyed in the fire and drying out machinery soaked by firefighting efforts.

An independent inspector has reportedly determined that the cause of the fire was a “catastrophic bearing failure” on the raw material belt line running into the facility that spread along the production line and into a duct pipe above the line, which led to the explosions.

Ray said the fire grew too fast for suppression systems on the belt line to be effective, and that the company would be making changes to the fire suppression system to avoid any chance of a repeat incident.

Much of the damage to the facility was caused by the 1.5 million gallons of water used to battle the fire, which soaked critical computer systems and electrical motors on the fiberboard press line, the Flathead Beacon reported.

The primary sources of this article are the Flathead Beacon, Kalispell, Montana, June 20, 2014, and Industry Intelligence archives. To view the original Flathead Beacon version of this article, click here .



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