Firefighters spent most of Thursday getting and keeping a structure fire under control at the Elite Forest Products mill in Malakwa.

Firefighters spend day battling blaze at Malakwa mill

Fire crews able to save half of building in large structure fire at Elite Forest Products mill.

Firefighters spent more than 12 hours battling a blaze at the Elite Forest Products mill in Malakwa on Thursday.

“It’s big,” said an exhausted Sean Coubrough, Columbia Shuswap Regional District fire services co-ordinator, attempting to estimate the size of the structure fire at the mill he and Malakwa, Swansea Point and Sicamous fire crews spent the day getting under control. “It’s bigger than I’m used to estimating… I’d say it looks like two football fields in length and maybe one of them burned.”

Coubrough said firefighters were paged around 5:45 a.m. on Thursday, March 9, and Malakwa firefighters were first on scene at the mill, located off Lybarger Road.

“When we arrived on scene… we had quite a large building partially involved, with flames showing and smoke showing…,” said Coubrough. “It was venting through the roof with heavy black, thick smoke.”

Coubrough said it was quickly learned the mill wasn’t operational, and there was no else onsite, leaving firefighters to focus their effort on a defensive attack of the exterior.

“We were not going inside the building – by the time we had arrived, the structure was compromised to a degree that it was not safe for us to put crews inside…,” said Coubrough. “We called it, ‘hit it hard from the yard’… Preventing the spread was our number one priority.”

Coubrough said there were some issues with access, as the roads into the mill hadn’t been plowed and were tricky to navigate. Also, a fire control system onsite was not operational, meaning water had to be hauled to the scene.

“We were forced to do shuttle runs with our tenders, running back and forth grabbing water, dumping it into a bladder and then sucking it up into the trucks,” explained Coubrough. “There were some concerns with getting water, but once things were set up it was working pretty well.”

The attack continued throughout the day. At about 4:30 p.m., Coubrough said the fire was under control and crews were in the mop-up stage.

“The fact it’s structurally compromised, we won’t be putting crews in to do a proper structural overhaul, we have to do it from the outside,” said Coubrough. “It’s going to leave a few hotspots, but nothing to worry about at this point in time. The manager of the mill will be put on a fire watch, that means we’re asking him once every hour to take a look around and if he does notice it start spreading, he can give 911 call and get us back out here.”

Despite the size and intensity of the blaze, Coubrough said firefighters were still able to save half the structure and some heavy equipment within.

“About half of the building we were able to save, which, considering the extent of the fire when our crews arrived on scene is no small feat,” said Coubrough, adding the site’s manager, Ray Hansen, seemed pleased, having expected a complete loss.

A smaller structure at the Elite Forest Products mill caught fire in 2015.

Just Posted

Kelowna man arrested after allegedly setting blaze near Fire Department

The man was allegedly seen lighting bushes on fire near the Kelowna Fire Department

Kelowna mothers to share grief, spread awareness for Overdose Day

Moms Stop the Harm is hosting an event for International Overdose Awareness Day in Kerry Park

Latino-American rock ‘n’ roll band The Mavericks coming to Kelowna

Kelowna is the only B.C. stop on the band’s worldwide tour

UBC Okanagan Heat score 10 goals in pre-season double-header

Two exhibition wins in the U.S. to start the year for the mens Heat squad

Kelowna transit system to add new routes in September

The decision is due to increase in demand, according to BC Transit

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Kamloops RCMP locate and arrest man who fled from police

The 22-year-old male was wanted in relation to a domestic violence investigation

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

Okanagan RCMP superintendent helps with arrest

Vernon Supt. Shawna Baher arrests man for theft; turns out to be suspect in assault and robbery

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Most Read