Russian sawmill fire offers revealing insights | Vancouver Sun
"...it doesn’t matter whether a mill is is Asia or North America, sawdust is just as flammable and requires systems to ensure it is safely managed"
British Columbia isn’t the only place where sawmills have been catching fire. There’s an interesting report out of Russia passed on by Ian Ogilvie, of Pacific Russia News. It’s about a fire at a mill April 20 in the Russian Far East.
The mill didn’t explode, as has been the case at two mill fires recently in British Columbia. In this case it was a massive pile of sawdust that appears to have caught fire through spontaneous combustion. It destroyed a good part of the adjacent village, leaving 125 households homeless. Three people lost their lives.
The report, from the minutes of an April 26 government presidium meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin, is revealing for a number of reasons.
First, I think it shows how far the Russian industry is from being any kind of real threat to British Columbia’s growing lumber export business with China. The sawmill, in the Amur region immediately north of China, had a storehouse of 1.9 million cubic metres of sawdust. It is strategically located close to the China market but clearly there is no pulp industry or pellet industry or any other industry for that matter, to utilize residual products from the sawmill.
Wood waste accounts for 40 per cent of the average log. In B.C., sawmills can keep their costs down by selling that waste to pulp mills or pellet plants or using it themselves to generate heat and power.
When lumber prices are low, that additional revenue stream can mean the difference between profit and loss. Russian mills, it appears, don’t have that revenue stream. How competitive can that be?
Secondly, the Russian fire shows that it doesn’t matter whether a mill is is Asia or North America, sawdust is just as flammable and requires systems to ensure it is safely managed. There was a clear breakdown in any attempt to manage the fire threat at the Amur sawmill. After the fire was extinguished, workers drilled down through four metres of sawdust to locate a hotspot that had been flaring up regularly because of the massive accumlation of sawdust above it.
Here’s was Putin had to say about the company that ran the sawmill, referred to earlier in the minutes as an operating entity.
“An operating entity or a derelict one – that’s guesswork as to how they were working when their facility repeatedly caught fire and threatened the village. In the end, it resulted in deaths. How could that happen? They had known about the danger, which means they did not prevent it in time, that’s the long and the short of it. A legal assessment is required.”
It shows how far a leader with dictatorial powers is willing to go in assigning blame, long before all the facts are in, when he senses that public opinion is on his side.
Here’s the link to the Russian sawmill fire: http://premier.gov.ru/eng/events/news/18791/