Quesnel River Pulp site of wandering fire

Captain Bart Schneider gives instructions to the Quesnel Fire Department firefighters, in consultation with staff from Quesnel River Pulp, before they engage the fire inside. (Karen Powell photo)
Quesnel Fire Department was called to West Fraser's pulp mill on Finning Road, Monday morning at about 12:30 p.m. (Tracey Roberts photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
The set of fires at Quesnel River Pulp included flames in the roof structure. (Karen Powell photo)
They're going in. After instructions from Quesnel River Pulp staff, the crew from Quesnel Fire Department successfully fought the flames. (Karen Powell photo)

Where there’s pulp, there’s steam, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. The steam and smoke mixed together dramatically, Monday (April 10), as Quesnel Fire Department (QFD) and other frontline responders raced to West Fraser’s factory on Finning Road. Quesnel River Pulp had a complicated set of interior fires for firefighters to contend with, but the army in QFD turnout gear made short work of the hot-spots.

Some of the flame was in the walls, some in the ducts, some in the roof structure. None were large in size, but it took diligence to extinguish each one, as there were simultaneous outbreaks on the main floor, third floor and roof.

The cause is still under investigation, said QFD chief Ron Richert, after the tough Easter Monday incident was finally cracked.

It’s not the first time firefighters have had to attend at the mill. Industrial sites involving high temperatures, active machinery and other factors are known to occasionally spark a fire.

The incident began for the QFD with alarms calling them to the 1000-block of Finning Road at about 12:30 p.m.

“Quesnel Fire Department responded to a structure fire at Quesnel River Pulp,” Richert said. “Upon arrival they had a fire that started inside the mill and spread to the roof area. Firefighters and Quesnel River Pulp staff worked quickly to contain and extinguish the fire.

“Eighteen firefighters and five pieces of apparatus responded to the call,” Richert continued. “RCMP and BC Ambulance Service also responded to the scene for support.”

QFD and the other frontline personnel attending to the scene were at the site for approximately three hours.

No injuries were sustained by first responders, and no injuries were known to have occurred to any staff of the pulp mill or other members of the public.

During regular production times, Quesnel River Pulp produces more than 1,000 tonnes of pulp product each day. It is located in the heart of Quesnel, not far from downtown.

West Fraser spokesperson Joyce Wagenaar confirmed that “the damage was minimal and does not impact our ability to operate. Repairs will take a few weeks to complete.”

All staff working at the mill at the time of the fire stayed to help, or continue with their duties, if they were unaffected by the firefighting.

“Production continues at the mill,” Wagenaar said, and expressed the company’s thanks to QFD and all first responders involved.

READ MORE: Fire extinguished at Quesnel River Pulp

READ MORE: Crews respond to wildfire near Quesnel River Pulp mill