A fire has damaged a portion of a remanufacturing plant that was about to begin operations in Port Alberni.
Crews from the Port Alberni Fire Department as well as Cherry Creek, Sproat Lake and Beaver Creek volunteer fire departments responded to a large fire at a remanufacturing plant on Stamp Avenue at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Mike Owens, fire chief with the Port Alberni Fire Department, said the blaze was fully involved when crews arrived on the scene. He said it was a passerby who reported the fire and that once firefighters arrived, they were able to get it under control and extinguish it.
“The caller reported that there were flames coming through the roof at that time, and certainly when we arrived on scene, we found the same,” Owens said during a media briefing on Wednesday. “Crews were quickly able to establish a water supply and start working on the fire.”
There were no injuries and it’s unclear at this point how the fire began, said Owens, adding that the Office of the Fire Commissioner has been brought in to help investigate the cause of the blaze.
“It is a large fire ground and a complex investigation, so we want to make sure that we get it right and the OFC has offered their assistance, which we have taken them up on,” said Owens.
The remanufacturing plant that caught fire belongs to San Group, a Surrey-based forestry company that owns 25 acres of land and multiple facilities in Port Alberni. The plant was under construction at the time of the blaze and was expected to be completely operational in a matter of weeks.
Kamal Sanghera, chief executive officer and owner of San Group, said the fire damaged about 25 per cent of the remanufacturing plant but the other 75 per cent will still be operational in three weeks.
“It looks bad [but] there are a couple of machines that are destroyed but there are a couple of machines that are still recoverable,” Sanghera said.
“This is one section that is gone but we got three other sections ready to roll,” he added.
Sanghera said he doesn’t know what caused the fire, adding that the mill didn’t have power at the time of the fire. He said the damage is likely in the millions and that the company hopes to replace or restore whatever was damaged as soon as possible.
“We will come out,” Sanghera said. “The sooner they allow us to get in we are going to get at, get the machines fixed and get it on. If we need a new machine then we will have it in place.”
Sanghera said no employees will lose their job as a result of the fire as they will be moved to the company’s other facilities in the area. He said the fire is just a setback that can easily be overcome.
“Light after dark. This is a little bit dark, but it is going to be sunshine again,” he said. “It happens, it is part of life, but again, we are going to go out and get it done.”
— Port Alberni Fire (@portalbernifire) April 29, 2020
San Group members talking to Port #Alberni Fire Chief following fire this am that damaged a mill, worth millions, that was supposed to start operating in 3 weeks. San Group says it will rebuild and no employees will lose work ?@CHEK_News? pic.twitter.com/GCZpoVZt3M
— Kendall Hanson (@Kendall_Hanson) April 29, 2020