UPDATE: Overheated motor linked to smoke at lumber mill

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An overheated motor in a wood processing machine didn't cause a fire but prompted all local rescue crews to scramble to the city's lumber mill Wednesday afternoon.

Treasure Valley Forest Products in Boise uses the facility on the city's west side to convert wood by products into pellets used in stoves specifically made to burn them.

The process also creates a significant amount of sawdust, a potentially explosive ingredient if it catches fire.

According to city Fire Chief Phil Gridley, a pin in an auger motor at the processing plant broke loose, causing it to seize up and overheat.

Wood material continued to build up on top of the auger and possibly began to smolder, said Kurt Vestman, a company spokesman. However, material in this stage of the process remains fairly green and moist but can ignite if it dries out from exposure to excessive heat.

Workers at the plant saw blue and black smoke coming from the machinery and shut down the equipment while they called 911. Because of the explosion risk, rescue workers dispatched all available fire trucks, ambulances and law enforcement vehicles.

City fire fighters search for the source of smoke at the city's saw mill Wednesday afternoon. An overheated motor in a wood processing machine was linked to the source of the smoke. Photo by Brian S. Orban

"Any time we have a commercial fire, we always scramble every vehicle," Gridley said. It puts all available resources on scene in case the situation worsens.

Police officers and sheriffs deputies also closed off North Haskett Street north of the West 5th North Street intersection to all but emergency vehicles until 6:10 p.m. when they received the all clear.

It took fire fighters nearly 90 minutes to isolate the source of the smoke. To reach it, crews had to remove the covers from a large number of inspection ports in the machinery.

The Treasure Valley company employs four workers at the Mountain Home facility. In addition to wood pellets, the plant also produces finished lumber used in construction.

Fire fighters saw no evidence of a fire, and none of the wood or sawdust showed signs of being scorched.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: