Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Pioneer grain terminal in Dawson Creek destroyed in huge fire
(BC News) Friday, 13 July 2007, 12:18 PST
by Karl Kopan
Peace River Block Daily News
DAWSON CREEK, B.C. (CP) - Black smoke filled Dawson Creek's sky after fire engulfed the Pioneer grain elevator, forcing the evacuation of some nearby residents.
It didn't take long for the smoke to get the attention of onlookers.
“I watched them (firefighters) yank that door open and a huge burst of flames came shooting out,” said 12-year-old Joseph Squires, who sat on his bicycle and watched as fire crews sprayed water on the terminal.
Firefighters cut holes to ventilate the building.
When the leg of the elevator fully caught fire loud explosions could be heard from the terminal's belly. Soon after a portion of the north side blew out and orange flames licked toward the sky. There were secondary explosions as the fire rapidly progressed.
Firefighters moved their trucks and hoses back once, then a second time, as the heat from the fire intensified.
RCMP and the fire department asked residents along the road above the grain elevator to evacuate their homes.
Selma Naslund, who lives immediately above the fire, had a painter working on her home when they saw what they believed to be smoke coming from the elevator's roof.
Naslund's daughter thought what they were seeing had to be grain dust.
“I said `no, it's never looked like that before,”' said Naslund.
“So we watched it and it kind of got worse and worse. Pretty soon we heard some sirens.”
Soon after the highway was closed to traffic as the terminal slowly burned its way down like a candle. Pieces of metal cladding that glowed red from the heat fell to the ground.
Fire Chief Shorty Smith said while the cost of damage and the cause of the fire was difficult to predict this early in the investigation, he said large structure fires pose a particular challenge to fight.
“A building this size, when it is fully involved like it was, we have to do what is called a defensive fire, in other words protect the structures around it that aren't damaged,” Smith said.
“They knew that the portion of the building that was on fire was pretty much a writeoff so they protected those silos to keep any more damage from happening there.
“The biggest problem with something like this is you've got this structure that's very high in the air and it's putting off sparks and everything else. As a result we had some small grass fires east of here.”
He said there were some pallet fires at a concrete company and a small fire at the Co-op.
The Pioneer elevator was built in 1978 and had a wooden frame covered in metal cladding.
Workers were clearing out grain to make room for this year's crop when the fire occurred.
(Peace River Block Daily News)
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