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Fire contained at Elk Falls Mill in Campbell River

Quick response from firefighters extinguishes fire at defunct pulp mill
Workers who are dismantling the Elk Falls mill gather at the entrance Wednesday morning following a fire evacuation.

A spark from a welding or cutting torch nearly resulted in a huge blaze at the defunct Elk Falls mill Wednesday morning.

“It could have been quite a spectacular fire if it had not been knocked down quickly,” said Fire Chief Dean Spry.

The fire started on the second floor of the five-storey TMP (thermomechanical pulping) building. Crews were dismantling the mill, and salvaging machinery for auction, when a spark from a torch apparently ignited hydraulic oil.

Workers were able to contain the fire, but it was still burning when city fire crews arrived around 10:30 a.m.

They arrived in force too – just in case things got out of hand – with three engines, the ladder truck, a rescue vehicle, two support vehicles, and at least 22 firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters had to dismantle some machinery in order to fully extinguish the flames which burned the cover off a pit area and also burned a hole in the floor, melting some electrical wiring. They were on the scene for about two hours.

The paper mill was permanently closed by its owners, Catalyst, in June 2010, as company president and CEO Kevin Clarke blamed poor market prices, uncompetitive labour costs, and high taxes.

The company is presently in bankruptcy protection and next week creditors will vote to either restructure the company or opt for a buyout plan.

The meeting was supposed to take place on May 15 in Richmond, but has now been rescheduled for May 18. Whatever action that takes place needs to be approved by the B.C. Supreme Court and that is expected to happen on May 23.