Fire strikes Meadow Lake’s OSB mill

by Phil Ambroziak

The cause of an early morning fire at the oriented strand board (OSB) mill remains unknown as clean-up efforts continue at the facility east of Meadow Lake.

The fire was discovered around 3 a.m. Jan. 18 in the bulk storage facility adjacent to the main facility. No one was injured.

“The definite cause of the fire is still under investigation, but the origin is not dust or explosion related,” explained plant manager Parker Snyder. “Although the fire has been contained, we have ongoing smouldering in the strands we are emptying from our bulk storage building. A major complication has been limited visibility due to steam and smoke. The safety of our people and containing damage to our plant is always our first priority and we take every fire very seriously.”

Although the mill does have an in-house fire brigade, Snyder said it is normal practice to contact Meadow Lake Fire and Rescue as a precaution.

“They have always been excellent in their support,” he said. “We appreciate the quick action by our emergency response team and the Meadow Lake Fire Department.  We will have our operations up again as soon as possible.”

“Any time a fire has the potential of getting out of hand, it’s a wise practice to call the fire department,” added Meadow Lake fire chief Neil Marsh. “If contained to the bulk storage area, that’s one thing. But, if it were to get into the mill itself, that could be an entirely different story.”

Marsh said Meadow Lake firefighters were on the scene for more than 15 hours.

“We had most of our crew out there off and on for a lot of hours,” Marsh continued. “We were there to mainly just support their firefighting efforts with our equipment and manpower.”

The Meadow Lake OSB facility is operated by Tolko Industries Ltd. and owned by the Meadow Lake OSB Limited Partnership, which includes Northwest Communities Holdings Ltd., Meadow Lake Tribal Council Resource Development Inc., CIC OSB Products Inc. and Tolko Industries Ltd. According to Tolko officials, a fire also broke out at the mill in 2009, but in a different area of the plant. Tolko directly employs close to 150 employees at its mill in Meadow Lake.

“The limited visibility is complicating clean-up and we are using self-contained breathing apparatus to inspect all areas in the adjacent plant,” Snyder noted. “We expect to have operations up and running within the next week, but it depends on what we find.”

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