BURNS LAKE, BC - Rebuilding of the Babine Forest Products sawmill, destroyed in a deadly explosion and fire, rests on the findings of a report on fiber supply availability due out next month.
Babine Forest Products and the Burns Lake community marked the six-month anniversary of the Jan. 20 sawmill tragedy on Saturday. Hampton Affiliates of Portland, OR, which operates the sawmill along with the First Nation Indian tribe, announced that as of July 6 one Babine employee remained under care and was undergoing rehabilitation treatment for his injuries. He was one of 44 workers injured in the blast that killed two other employees.
Hampton Affiliates said it is continuing dismnatle damaged structures and clear rubble from the sawmill site in hopes of beginning rebuilding later this fall. Representatives of Hampton Affiliates, First Nation, Babine Forest Products union and the Village of Burns Lake joined together at a Special Committee on Timber Supply last month to rally support for receiving sufficient volume of timber to sustain both Hampton's Decker Lakes Forest Products Mill and a new Babine sawmill facility.
Hampton Affiliates noted that a report from the special committee, based on the British Columbia government's timber supply report, is expected to make a recommendation by Aug. 15. Hampton Affiliates plans to have an independent consultant verify the timber supply information. "We are encouraging the 'need for speed' as it relates to Burns Lake and moving forward with the new sawmill," Hampton Affiliates noted in its most recent update to employees.
In the meantime, WorkSafeBC, a provincial agency akin to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is continuing to seek answers to what cause the explosion at Babine Forest Products as well as a similar fatal explosion and Fire in April at the Lakeland Hills sawmill in Prince George, B.C. The safety agency's investigation has focused on whether or not high concentrations of combustible wood dust played a role in either tragedy. Both mills relied heavily on logs diseased by the mountain pine beetle for their timber supply.
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