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Explosion, fire in sawdust bin at Cobourg Canada Pallet plant 0

A Cobourg firefighter sprays water at a transport trailer inside a burning sawdust bin at Canada Pallet on Division Street Tuesday afternoon.

A Cobourg firefighter sprays water at a transport trailer inside a burning sawdust bin at Canada Pallet on Division Street Tuesday afternoon.

COBOURG - An explosion and fire in a sawdust bin Tuesday forced Canada Pallet to shut down operations for the day.

Cobourg firefighters arrived in the noon hour to find the three-story sawdust collector fully engulfed in flames.

Shawn Hicks, co-owner and chief executive officer of Canada Pallet, said the metal tower is a “bag house” that sucks sawdust into it and drops it into a trailer below. A transport trailer had been in a bay, collecting sawdust, at the time of the fire.

“Lights when off in the plant to tell us there was fire detected which called our maintenance people to the area,” Hicks said. “They took a look at it and could see there was fire so we got people away. The flame actually got shot into the plant briefly. That’s when the system shut down completely.”

There is a lot of oxygen around the sawdust, which the company sells, so it’s a perfect environment for an explosion.

“There are sprinklers in it and they are running,” Hicks said.

“How a spark got by it, I don’t know.”

Flames from the bin fire could be seen from as far away as Port Hope.

None of the plant's 160 employees was injured.

Canada Pallet, which manufactures pallets and crating, also has an operation in Toronto and two in the United States, but Cobourg's is “the main hub that feeds everybody,” Hicks said.

– with files from Pete Fisher

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