COLUMBIA FALLS, MT - A fire and series of suspected combustible dust explosions at Plum Creek Timber Company's MDF plant last Tuesday will likely keep the plant out of commission for about one month.
"All employees are safe and there are no reported injuries," Plum Creek officials noted in a statement released shortly after the incident.
NBC Montana reported that the explosion and fire was caused by a "catastrophic bearing failure," a component of the raw material conveyor line in the plant. The fire quickly spread from the conveyor belt to overhead ducting triggering a series of dust explosions,
Columbia Falls Fire Chief Rick Hagan told ABC-Fox Montana that the incident is under investigation but that he suspected wood dust fueled the fire and explosions based on similar past incidents at the plant.
While the plant is expected to remain shut down for up to a month, the estimated 60 employees will return to work immediately to participate in clean up and repairs.
Plum Creek (NYSE: PCL) reported last month that its first quarter earnings fell 46.4% to $30 million compared to the first quarter of 2013. Revenues declined as well by 6.8% to $317 million.