A fire has devastated part of chipboard manufacturer Egger’s plant in Hexham, Northumberland and a spokesperson for Egger said that the fire was confined to the company’s biomass building, which generates heat for drying wood chips, and powers other part of the plant.
The factory employs around 500 people, but no one was injured. Sixty fire-fighters were tackling the blaze at its peak.
The company said that despite extensive damage, some production has resumed using back-up gas-fired boilers. Joint managing director Bob Livesey (pictured) told customers in a letter that he expected disruption to be minimal.
“We do not anticipate too much disruption to our normal supply performance, but if there are some issues, we would like to apologise for this and thank you for your consideration and understanding,” he said.
Livesey added: “The fire on Sunday evening was confined to the wood-burning biomass plant that generates heat used in the manufacturing process. We will be working with fire investigators to determine the exact cause of the incident, which is our first since the new plant opened in 2007. Thankfully, there were no injuries. All of our detection and safety systems worked extremely well and the fire service was able to bring the fire safely under control.
“Our engineers, together with colleagues from Germany, are working to assess the amount of damage and the cause of the fire. I’m grateful to fire-fighters from Northumberland Fire & Rescue for their quick and professional response, which meant damage was confined to that one small area of our site.”
The plant was built in the 1960s, and had a £110 million revamp in 2007. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Update from local press hexhamcourant.co.uk / Last updated at 07:46, Monday, 03 June 2013
Sixty firefighters from three counties tackled a major blaze at Hexham’s Egger UK chipboard plant on Sunday night as smoke and flames from the stricken Egger factory leap high into Hexham’s night sky.
The normal cloud of white steam from the Egger factory was replaced by huge plumes of thick black smoke, as flames ripped through the wood-burning biomass plant at the site.
In addition to the Fire crews from across Northumberland, they were joined by teams from Tyne and Wear and Durham and Darlington fire and rescue services in order to throw up a 200 metre safety cordon around the factory.
Luckily, no-one was hurt in the blaze, which has been confirmed that it was restricted to the biomass unit, where Egger recycles its own waste wood to in order create the heat necessary to dry out the timber as part of the normal manufacturing process to turn it into chipboard.
It is thought that the intensity of the blaze was due to thermal oil used in the heating system catching fire and as the heat was so intense that fire chiefs decided to let it burn itself out rather than sending firefighters into the building.
The roof did not burn through however as special hatches were built in, designed to blow out to release heat and pressure in the event of fire. No-one usually works inside the biomass building, which is operated from a computerised control room elsewhere on site, hence no injuries were reported and the factory was only out of action for 24 hours, with some production resuming on yesterday.
Although the biomass unit will be out of action for some time, as Egger’s own technicians have been joined by experts from Germany to establish the cause of the fire, and the extent of the damage and Chipboard manufacture is expected to resume today.
Heat for drying the wet wood is now being provided by the gas the company used to use before investing £100m in the new plant, which opened in 2007.
Joint managing director at Egger Bob Livesey said: “We will be working with fire investigators to determine the exact cause of the incident, which is our first since the new plant opened in 2007.
“Thankfully there were no injuries. All of our detection and safety systems worked extremely well and the fire service was able to bring the fire safely under control. I’m grateful to firefighters from Northumberland fire and rescue for their quick and professional response that meant damage was confined to that one small area of our site.” “A report will be prepared following a full investigation by Northumberland fire and rescue service and Egger.”
Egger took over the site in 1984, and the factory now employs some 500 people directly.