Montrose, CO – Sprinkler system slows fire at saw mill; No injuries reported

Montrose Forest Products is operating at a temporarily diminished capacity, as repairs are made to electrical components that were damaged in a fire late Friday at the timber mill.

“It wasn’t catastrophic, but it wasn’t good, nonetheless,” Mike Kusar, general manager, said Monday.

“We had mainly electrical damage to our de-barker area. We are running production today, but it is at less than full capacity. We are still making repairs. No one was injured. The fire district did a great job, getting right out there and getting it out,” Kusar said.

A fire alarm summoned the Montrose Fire Protection District and deputies to the timber mill on 65.30 Road at about 10:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7.

Crews found fire showing in and around manufacturing equipment in an open area of the building. The sprinkler system activated, slowing the fire, which firefighters extinguished. With plant employees, they were able to shut down power to the system and machinery.

The fire district’s report says one of the areas of fire was at a hydraulic fluid tank and electric pumps, where rubber piping had burned through and was leaking. Containers of hydraulic oil had burned and above them, was wiring that had been exposed when the insulation burned off.

The fire also burned around and under a conveyor belt motor, and around a large saw in the metal building.

The amount of sawdust made it difficult to determine distinct burn patterns; per the report, workers said welding might have been done near the saw earlier in the day.

The fire district surmised the blaze was heading south and the sprinkler heads activated after crews arrived.

“I think our sprinkler system paid for itself this weekend,” Kusar said Monday.

As firefighters began clearing the scene Friday, employees used hoses to keep wetting the sawdust and worked to replace sprinkler heads to reactivate the system.

According to the report, dust, fiber, lint, sawdust and excelsior caught fire first, due to “failure of equipment or heat source.” It listed “heat source too close to combustibles” as a contributing factor. There were no human contributing factors.

Preliminary damages were estimated at $25,000. The involved property was valued at $5 million and the contents at $1million.

Montrose Forest Products is having the electrical damage repaired so it can resume full-capacity operations, Kusar said.

“It was obviously a very big deal, but we’re back running today. We worked all weekend to get her going,” he said.

The mill hopes to be at full operation again in about a week.