A fire destroyed the Waldun Group's cedar mill in Maple Ridge early Sunday. At the height of the blaze

Ruskin mill fire may have been electrical

Waldun company unsure if it will rebuild mill, but looking to keep employees working.

The investigation into the fire that destroyed a Ruskin cedar shake mill indicates it may have been electrical in nature.

The blaze started shortly after midnight Sunday at the Waldun Forest Products mill on 287th Street and Lougheed Highway in Ruskin, near the Mission border.

Investigators from the Maple Ridge Fire Department believe the fire started in an area of the mill where maintenance work was being done Saturday.

Curtis Walker, a partner with Waldun Forest Products, said the company is looking at the possibility the fire may have been electrical.

“But nothing has been determined yet,” he added.

Maple Ridge assistant fire chief Mark Smitton confirmed an electrical problem is one of the likely scenarios being looked at.

Smitton added the fire is not being considered suspicious.

He was the first to arrive at the fire and found the mill already engulfed in flames. At the height of the blaze, flames stretched 30 metres into the night sky and could be seen from as far away as Abbotsford.

Smitton said firefighters managed to contain the fire to the mill and protected a workshop and equipment nearby. A lack of fire hydrants and collapsing hydro lines hampered the initial attack.

Mission Fire/Rescue Service’s tanker trucks were called in to help supply water.

No one was injured in the fire, which was called in by a night watchman, the only employee on site when the fire started.

“Thank goodness no one was hurt,” said Walker.

He added that safety at the mill has always been a top priority.

“We’re a very safe company, and we take safety very seriously.”

WorkSafeBC has conducted seven inspections of the mill since June of 2009, and found no fire hazards.

However, the mill had yet to be inspected under Phase 2 of WorkSafeBC’s Combustible Dust Strategy, created in response to catastrophic explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George earlier this year, according to spokesperson Donna Freeman.

WorkSafeBC has already inspected 173 saw mills across the province as part of Phase 1, and is currently inspecting planer mills, cedar shake mills, and engineered wood product mills under Phase 2, which began in July.

Last week, WorkSafeBC announced testing showed all wood dust, not just beetle-killed wood dust, could pose a “high risk for explosion when dispersed and ignited in air,” and must be rigorously managed by sawmills.

The Maple Ridge Fire Department inspected the Waldun mill last year, and found nothing out of the ordinary, Smitton said.

“From what I understand, they had a very good program for cleaning [up sawdust],” he said.

However, the mill was built in 1974, before a Maple Ridge bylaw requiring sprinklers. Had the mill been retrofitted with a sprinkler system, that could have mitigated the damage form the fire, Smitton said.

While there are other mills in the area without sprinkler systems, he said currently there is no plan to require retrofitting.

The mill also received Safety Accord Forestry Enterprise (SAFE) certification by the B.C. Forest Safety Council.

The family-run mill had been in operation in Ruskin for almost 40 years.

It was built in 1974 by Wynn Walker. According to the company website, Walker eventually merged three mills to form the Waldun Group. Waldun Forest Products is now one of the largest operations in the shake and shingle industry.

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

VIDEO, PHOTOS: Family Day in Mission

Residents flocked to the Mission Leisure Centre to enjoy free, family-friendly activities

ACES grows the love of gardening with annual seed exchange

The event will be returning to Harrison Mills Community Hall on March 1

Slippery road conditions plague Mission drivers

Tuesday mornings snowfall is creating a challenge for motorists

How much does your city spend per person on snow removal?

Black Press Media compares 2018 ice and snow removal budgets of various Lower Mainland communities

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could say the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Missing Surrey snowshoer caught in avalanche found dead on Vancouver mountain

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Most Read