Feature Story                                                                                             Thursday January 26, 2012


Fire Engulfs Wood Processing Plant

Spectacular Yarrow blaze slows internet across Chilliwack 

Staff/Voice photos

No. 3 Rd was a tangle of fire hoses and emergency vehicles Thursday afternoon as crews battled a blaze in Quonset hut.


he City of Chilliwack Fire Department fought a spectacular blaze that broke out late Thursday afternoon in the 4400 block of No. 3 Rd., at a Yarrow wood processing plant manufacturing plant.


When crews arrived shortly after 3 P.M., a 20 foot wide Quonset hut, running the width of the property was fully involved, while assorted stacks of lumber sat untouched nearby. 


Initial concerns were that there may have been propane and acetylene tanks inside, so crowds were kept well back behind police barricades at No. 3 Rd and Yarrow Central, effectively snarling traffic on Vedder Mountain Rd. and splitting the hamlet in half for hours.


Witnesses told the Voice at one point flames shot 40-50 feet into the air, melting hydro and internet lines, which caused connectivity problems and massive slowdowns for internet users Chilliwack-wide.

Smoke billowed out of the structure long after darkness had fallen, and a backhoe was later used to drag out burning debris so crews could properly extinguish it. Window holes were cut in the steel structure giving firefighters a chance to reconnoiter the blaze inside.

According to witnesses, the end of September was the last time activity was seen at the business which was rumored to have not paid the rent in quite some time.

Dan Sawatzky, owner of Imagination Corporation, which is just down the block, said that when they came out and saw the flames at the west end of the building, and by the time they called the fire department, flames had travelled to the opposite end of the hut.

There wasn't much firefighters could do to stop the blaze.

"In 15 minutes it went from a puff of smoke to burning the wires on the other end," he said. "The wires came down and were dancing around, there was explosions inside, it was impressive."

Sawatzky said his friend's house on the west side of the fire was untouched.

"Thankfully the owners on the other side didn't get hurt and that is galvanized steel, so there's dangerous fumes coming off that."

Sawatzky said he phoned the site owner, who is apparently in Texas. "He heard about it from me, and he'll be back on Monday."

He said BC Hydro was quick to deal with damage, but homes in the area will be without internet for at least 24 hours.

Lakeside Pizza owner Ranjit Gill made a generous donation of 15 large pizzas to firefighters on the scene.

There were no reports of injuries and the fire was contained to the single structure. More information is expected later today from the CFD.

Copyright (c) 2011 The Valley Voice

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