Growing piles of wood waste at Downie Timber are a “huge concern” but the company is co-operating, said Revelstoke fire chief Rob Girard.
“The problem is you have the greenbelt right beside it, people in and around those areas,” he told the Times Review. “It can be a huge concern to the fire department.”
Girard said he was in conversation with Downie over the stockpiles, which were starting to spill over onto city property
According to Alan Smythe, Downie’s yard manager, the piles are still smaller than they were last year.
Smythe said Downie was bringing in equipment to process the waste in order to remove soil and rocks mixed in.
“Then we take the wood waste to put it back through the mill to process it and we end up with a bunch of products we can use for wood repair or market it,” he said.
Last Halloween a fire broke out in one of the piles. Fortunately it was the rainy season and the fire was contained before it could spread. The fire was stoked and kept going until it burned out a month later.
The risk is a fire breaking out during the dry summer season.
“As I had said to him, the piles are getting high and starting next month and through the summer, there is potential for huge hazard down there,” said Girard. “If we had a big incident down there, we’re probably looking at helicopter bucketing, which is hugely costly. It’s less costly to be preventative at this time and that’s what they are doing.”
What causes the piles to grow? One is a loss of markets. One purchaser, Pinnacle Pellett in Armstrong experienced a fire that caused them to shut down operations for several weeks. Another factor is that Downie can no longer just burn the waste, like it used to before the burner was shut down in 2007.
“The entire industry has not been able to recover from not being able to burn,” said Smythe.
Girard said Downie was very co-operative with the fire department and very proactive at managing risk.
“There’s big values they want protected and we want protected because it’s a big employer in Reveltsoke and we need to make sure we keep on top of that,” he said.