Columbia Shuswap Regional District fire services co-ordinator Sean Coubrough continues his investigation into a fire that flared up at the Tappen mill on Friday, July 13. (Sean Coubrough photo)

Heavy equipment might be culprit in Tappen mill fire

Fire spotted about 7 p.m. on July 13, extinguished five hours later through coordinated effort

  • Jul. 13, 2018 8:09 p.m.

The investigation continues into a fire that broke out about 7 p.m. on Friday, July 13 at the Tappen mill.

Reiterating that the quick response and team effort shown by the Tappen-Sunnybrae, Shuswap and White Lake fire departments along with BC Wildfire Service and CP Rail helped keep the fire from spreading, Sean Coubrough, Columbia Shuswap Regional District fire services co-ordinator, says heavy equipment might have been the cause.

“It’s thought to have started in an area of heavy equipment where there was a conveyor system whose belts could have caught on fire,” he says. “There was also a wood chipper, an industrial welder and a hydraulic pump, and hydraulic fluid gets very hot.”

Related: Fire at Tappen mill out, owner mopping up

Coubrough says once it started in the machinery, it spread quickly to sawdust piles and travelled underground, popping up in several places.

“Heavy winds were fanning the flames and our biggest concern was the fire spreading into the trees and the CP Rail line,” he says. “The winds were blowing north to south so the fire departments attacked on three different flanks and were able to control the spread.”

He says BC Wildfire set up sprinklers at the tree line and by about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, the fire was contained and firefighters were able to hand the site back to mill management.

“Mill management was relieved and said they’d maintain a fire watch until such time as they could say it was completely extinguished,” said Coubrough, who is the local assistant to the fire commissioner of BC. “They were required to use heavy equipment to dig down into the sawdust and hose it down as they were going.”

No word yet from the mill owner regarding the extent of the damage or future plans.

Update on July 14, 9 a.m.

The fire at the Tappen mill has been extinguished, with no further danger to surrounding areas expected.

Sean Coubrough, fire services co-ordinator with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, reports fire crews were able to leave the mill on Tappen Station Road about 1 a.m. Saturday.

They received the call about 7:30 p.m. Friday night.

“When crews arrived, there were some hydraulic equipment and conveyor belts on fire, along with the sawdust pile,” he said.

He says a great response from a number of agencies over five hours helped extinguish the blaze before it spread to neighbouring trees.

Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Department responded to the call and quickly requested mutual aid from the White Lake and Shuswap fire departments. Also responding were crews from the BC Wildfire Service as well as BC Ambulance and CP Rail representatives.

“It was a great team effort,” Coubrough said Saturday morning, explaining there were concerns with the high winds and some sparks landing behind the fire. Wildfire crews put out sprinklers at the tree line; “we were able to lay down a wet guard and stop it from spreading.”

No one was injured but it’s not known yet the extent of the damage to the mill.

July 13, 8 p.m. Original story

A fire has started at a sawmill near Tappen and multiple fire trucks are responding to the scene.

Facebook/Melissa Gach

Witnesses say the fire likely began in a large pile of sawdust, rapidly spreading and emitting thick smoke.

CP Rail employees notifying fire department crews advised them to use “a lot of bells and whistles” in battling the aggressive blaze.

Facebook/ShuswapScanner

The smoke is apparently thick enough to be seen from across the lake.

Facebook/Amanda Jewell Qually

Facebook/Angela Stoney

More information will be added as it is made available.


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