Roseburg resumes veneer mill operations after devastating fire

Operations have resumed at a veneer mill that was the site of a fire in Weed, Calif.

WEED, Calif. -- After a devastating fire on Sept. 2 at a mill in Weed Calif., that damaged the mill and caused extensive damage to the nearby communities, Roseburg Forest Products began full operations of its veneer manufacturing plant Wednesday, Nov. 9, including returning 145 team members to full schedules.

The company said in a statement that it has implemented new safety procedures and it is keeping city and county leaders informed since the Sept. 2 Mill Fire. 

The started at the company's veneer mill and the company believes that the cause of the fire might have been failure of a water-spraying machine, known as a "ash mixer" that is used to cool ash. Roseburg's mill produces its electric power in a co-generation facility fueled by wood remnants. The generator ejects ash after consuming the wood; that ash is sprayed with cooling water, using a third-party-supplied machine.

Local officials, however, have not determined the exact cause of the blaze that caused at least two fatalities, numerous injuries, and destroyed 4,000 acres of forest and 144 homes, and other structures.

According to the statement, Roseburg updated the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire), Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services, the Siskiyou County Planning Department and Siskiyou County Sheriff Department fire investigators about its plans to safely resume operations at the Weed, Ca., facility.

"We carefully considered the concerns our neighbors, regulators, investigators and our community may have had about the resumption of full operations," said Pete Hillan, spokesperson for Roseburg Forest Products. "We've trained our team members, tested the equipment and updated our operational protocols so that we are confident in safely resuming operations."

According to the company, CalFire and the Siskiyou County Sheriff's office have not issued the results of their investigations into the cause of the Mill Fire. In the interim, Roseburg has reviewed and updated its procedures to make sure the company continues to protect team members and the community by:

  • Removing the mill's "ash mixer" that a manufacturer designed to mix and cool the mill's ash with water.
  • Installing a replacement mixer to mix the ash with water and cool the ash.
  • Updating how the mill produces, stores and removes its ash from the new ash mixer.
  • Updating emergency response processes.
  • Conducting team member trainings for handling ash with the replacement ash mixer and a new storage facility.

Throughout the more than two months since the Sept. 2 Mill Fire, plant staff continued to work full-time, focusing on overall safety updates, including the installation of new ash-handling equipment; and, conducting routine maintenance and planned capital improvements.

"We are grateful for the support of our neighbors, City of Weed leadership and our Siskiyou County partners," Hillan said. "We appreciate the dedication of our team members in preparing for the safe resumption of operations."


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).