Port Alberni fire crews speak to San Group owners on Wednesday, April 29, after a fire destroyed a building on their construction site. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Welding mishap causes San Group mill fire, says Port Alberni fire chief

A passerby saw flames shooting out the roof of a building at 2 a.m.

A large industrial fire at a construction site in Port Alberni last week was accidentally caused by welding, according to the Port Alberni Fire Department (PAFD).

Alberni Valley fire crews responded to the blaze at approximately 2 a.m. on Wednesday, April 29. The building was located on a site where the San Group is building a remanufacturing plant at Stamp Avenue and Roger Street. The initial call came from a local passerby.

READ MORE: Fire crews battle industrial fire at San Group construction site in Port Alberni

“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,” said PAFD fire chief Mike Owens. “Crews were able to quickly establish a water supply and start working on the fire.”

The fire was brought under control a couple of hours later without spreading to any other buildings. Fire crews remained on scene overhauling the fire to ensure nothing flared up again.

The Office of the Fire Commissioner was invited to attend the scene and assist the PAFD in its investigation. According to Owens, the fire was determined to be accidental.

“On the evening before the fire, [employees] were doing some welding, installing cable tray brackets,” said Owens on Monday, May 4. “After going through the fire scene with the investigative team, we determined that the fire originated in the area where that welding had been taking place.”

San Group owns 25 acres next to the paper plant, and have spent months and millions of dollars building a remanufacturing facility. They announced late last week that they have also purchased the former Chalwood Forest Products sawmill and are transforming it to cut specialty pieces of lumber in a variety of wood species.

READ MORE: San Group buys speciality sawmill in Port Alberni

The building that burned down on Wednesday had housed a finger jointer.

San Group owner Kamal Sanghera said the fire is just a minor setback for their remanufacturing facility.

“We lost a couple of machines, but we’ll do our best to get it back online again,” he said on Wednesday morning.

An engineer has already been on site, he added.

The fire will not be affecting any jobs for San Group employees. Most of the employees have been transferred to the Chalwood mill so they can keep their hours, Sanghera said.

“It’s one step backward,” said Sanghera. “But we’ll turn it into a positive.”

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elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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The charred remnants of the San Group building on Nuupts’ ikapis Way. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

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