SEATTLE -- Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc. announced that production resumed this week at its Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) facility in Columbia Falls, Mont. following a fire that occurred on 10 June. The No. 2 production line, which makes between 1/10th- ½-inch continuous-press fiberboard, restarted 30 June and the company began shipping product to customers. The No. 1 production line resumes full production this week. It produces up to 1 1/2–inch fiberboard.
A mechanical failure occurred, causing the fire, which was contained by local fire and safety departments. All employees were safely evacuated and there were no reported injuries.
Tom Ray, vice president, northwest resources and manufacturing, said both the fire response and facility repair efforts were outstanding examples of people working together safely to support common goals, “We are very thankful that all the local fire and safety departments rallied to protect the people working at the facility.” He said that Plum Creek will donate $15,000 to be shared by all the response units that helped fight the fire. “Their work is greatly appreciated and we hope these funds support the important work they provide every day to our community,” he said.
While production ceased at the facility for about three weeks following the fire, the company continued to ship product to customers from existing inventory.
Plum Creek said the 183 employees who work at the facility never lost a day of work. All were reassigned to carry out a variety of tasks, including fire watch, cleanup, and repair. In late June, many helped bring production back on line, assisting with equipment testing to ensure it worked safely and met manufacturing standards.
Resumption of normal production concludes a month-long recovery and repair process, which relied on the efforts of both employees and contractors. Damages to the plant are estimated in the $8-10 million range. All major repairs to the facility have been completed, including repairs to computer systems, duct work and upgrades to the fire suppression systems. Scaffolding remains visible on the exterior to the plant while the company replaces sheet metal but these activities will not affect plant production.