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No production time lost at Port Hawkesbury Paper despite fire

POINT TUPPER, N.S. (From news reports) -- Port Hawkesbury Paper did not lose any production time despite a fire in one of its massive wood silos last month, a company official says.

Andrew Fedora, sustainability and outreach leader with Port Hawkesbury Paper, said the cause of the fire was wood pellets in the silo overheating.
"Something similar to a barn fire, if you have certain moisture content within the wood pellets, there's a potential for combustion," he said.
Port Hawkesbury Paper is completing a full investigation of the fire and will act on any measures identified to ensure it doesn't happen again, Fedora said.
"Even throughout the fire and extinguishing it and doing the followup investigations to see what caused the incident and so on, there was no drop in production," he said. "Wood flow was coming in to the mill, that continued per usual and paper outflow continued per usual, as well," Fedora said.
While the silos are useful in the production of paper, Fedora said there are other processes available if the mill is not able to make use of them.
The silo itself did not sustain any damage as a result of the fire, he said.
"Everything is cleaned, cleared, it's been inspected, it's back in operation, and we're reviewing best management practices presently to see what we can do to improve practices for the future" Fedora said.
"At the end of the day, we're very fortunate that there was no serious damage to property or to people."
The fire sent two mill employees and two volunteer firefighters to hospital for carbon monoxide exposure. They were all subsequently treated and released.
Fedora noted a joint occupational health and safety committee also reviews all incidents and the company is proud of its safety record, to date.
Five local volunteer fire departments responded to the fire. An aerial truck was brought in from Antigonish to douse the wood chips as they were removed from the silo. Mill employees also took part in the effort.
Port Hawkesbury Paper's supercalendered paper machine, PM2, is capable of producing 400,000 tonnes of glossy paper for use in retail inserts, magazines and catalogues. It employs more than 300 people directly and is the largest private employer in the Strait area.
Pacific West Commercial Corp., took over operation of the mill in 2012 after a year-long sales process.

The Department of Labour and Advanced Education is investigating the incident and Fedora said the company is co-operating with that probe.


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