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Special help called in for industrial wood fire

Fire crews at Kiwi Lumber on Monday. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

First fire of its type for many years

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A fire in a wood shavings silo at Kiwi Lumber on Monday morning required a Wellington-based fire truck with an aerial appliance to bring it under control.

The aerial appliance has an extension ladder and hose with a reach up to 35 metres high.

The hose squirted water into the silo hatch at the top.

Three fire crews and a water tanker were on standby for three hours until the aerial appliance arrived, and it remained at the site to assist the Kiwi Lumber team with safety measures.

To monitor the situation, the fire service remained on standby at the site overnight along with some Kiwi Lumber staff.

Site manager Duncan Oakley said it was likely the fire started from embers coming off the boiler, which is close by.

“The wood shavings feed the boiler for the whole plant and we think embers out of the boiler exhaust have landed on the silo roof and somehow got inside it to start the fire,” Oakley said.

“It’s a smouldering type of fire. There were no flames to see. But the smoke means there is possibly a fire further down into the shavings at the bottom of the silo.”

Oakley said the company has its own water systems and had them working in the silo before the fire crews arrived.

Staff worked to drain the silo of wood shavings throughout Monday.

A metal silo with a fire inside could be “dangerous indeed”, Oakley said, saying the presence of the fire crews had allowed the plant to continue to function.

“We are confident that with them present we are keeping people safe,” he said.

The company was continuing to feed shavings into the boiler to keep the boiler operating and to empty the silo.

“We will completely empty the silo safely and then clean it out by hand to be sure there are absolutely no shavings left smouldering,” Oakley said.

The company has not had a fire of this type in many years.

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