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October 28, 2017 5:27 am

What Sparked the Lakeland Mill Blast?

Friday, March 6, 2015 @ 3:58 PM

Prince George, B.C.-  Testimony at the Coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Glenn Roche and Alan Little, has not yet pin pointed the cause of the fatal explosion and fire.

With witness after witness saying there was significant dust in the air and in the mill, along with word Glenn Roche was in the midst of “blowing down” a piece of machinery when the blast happened,  one could conclude there was sufficient fuel .

The fire investigators have said the blast was generated in an area in the north east corner of the Mill’s basement.

But what was the spark?

The investigation by WorkSafeBC concluded a cooling fan had broken free and traveled the length of its shaft, coming to a stop when it ground into a screen, the shaft kept rotating creating enough frictional heat to ignite the dust.

On the stand today, BC Safety Authority’s Jeff Coleman. The BCSA oversees the design, installation and inspection of technical equipment such as elevators, boilers, gas and electrical equipment. The BCSA shared information with WorkSafe on the blast investigation. The BCSA didn’t discount   WorkSafe’s conclusion, but Coleman says the BCSA was not able to make a definitive conclusion as to the ignition source.

Coleman testified   the ignition could have been something as simple as the overhead lighting, the control switches, or the wiring supplying power to the p6 conveyor belt motor. He noted that when the p6 motor was tested, it didn’t show any signs of malfunction “but we did find a significant amount of dust in the cooling fins and junction box.”   He also testified none of the equipment he mentioned was rated for use in a dust environment.

When asked why the BCSA doesn’t conduct regular inspections to ensure equipment is of required standards, he explained that in most cases, the BCSA ensures proper installation and that the operator or installer has the proper skill level. In cases where workers believe there is a safety issue, workers are encouraged to call their BCSA’s tip line. There are just 150 safety officers with BCSA, handling the entire province.

Coleman says that in the days following the explosions at the Babine Forest Products mill and at Lakeland, the BCSA conducted inspections at 237 wood processing facilities in the Province to advise of hazardous conditions such as working in an environment with combustible dust. He says there are follow up visits planned with about 140 of those operations.

Coleman testified that at the time of the mill explosion, “The explosive nature of the matter (wood dust) was not fully understood”   He said the BCSA believes it is possible the ignition source was electrical but it could have been something as simple as the heat from the lighting in that area.


Was compressed air being used at time of ignition? Possible static electricity caused by fast moving particles of fine dust. Just a thought.

It says that Glen Roche was blowing down at the time of the explosion oldman1. I sure hope they can come to some sort of conclusion for everyone that this tragedy has affected.

Methane gas concentration from the old garbage dump the mill was built on, set off from saw filer grinding maybe ?

One other question I have is was the air wand being used for the blow down a conductive or non-conductive material and was the air line properly grounded to eliminate a static charge? Maybe all these questions have been already asked.

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