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Hayley Johnson was just relieved her boyfriend turned out to be OK.
“He called saying there was an explosion at the mill and he wanted me to bring some dry clothes to him,” said Johnson, who had just arrived at the wood pellet plant, Great Northern Pellets, late Sunday afternoon.
“I’m relieved that everyone’s OK,” she said, adding her boyfriend is employed as a full-time operator at the mill.
Fire crews responded to two structure fires located at the back-end of the Upper Musquodoboit plant at about 11:45 a.m. Sunday. About 20 firefighters were still on scene late afternoon, trying to extinguish a fire in one of the buildings.
Robert Kay, chief of the Middle Musquodoboit Fire Department, could not say what sparked the blaze. He said five or six employees were working on site at the time of the incident and were uninjured.
Seven crews assisted in the effort, from as far away as Sheet Harbour, Enfield and Stewiacke, he said.
Middle and Upper Musquo-doboit fire departments had just extinguished a garage fire in Upper Musquodoboit when they were called to the mill bordering Highway 336. Upon their arrival, smoke was coming out of both rooftops, said Kay.
“The crews were great, they were fast,” said Kay. “They extinguished the fire they could see at the time and now we’re trying to get into the small spots causing us some havoc.”
He said both buildings contained about half the total amount of wood pellets on the property. Several mounds of wood pellets were located near the buildings that had caught on fire.
Kay said it was too early to say how the two buildings caught fire.
He said fire crews have responded to fires at the mill in the past and company management has responded by improving fire prevention measures.
“With this type of industry and the material being dry wood, you can run into these situations,” said Kay. “There are other industries of a similar (nature) across the province and they all have the same issues. We plan for it, prepare for it, and hope that it doesn’t happen.”
A manager of the mill was at the scene of the fire but would not offer comment.
Thor Olesen, CEO of Great Northern Timber Resources, which owns the mill, responded to the incident in an email statement, calling it a minor fire.
“There were no injuries to our staff and we are pleased to report that our safety equipment and procedures worked as intended and contained the situation,” said Olesen. “Thanks to the quick response of the entire team at the mill as well as the local volunteer fire departments, the impact was minimized.”
He said the company would conduct a full review of the incident and expects the mill to be in operation in a few days.