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Columbia Falls Fiberboard Plant To Return To Full Production

Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant
Katrin Frye

Plum Creek Timber Company officials say they hope to return the company's fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls to full production this week, about a month after an explosion and fire shut it down.

Tom Ray is a Plum Creek vice president. Ray says the plant started its No. 2 production line a week ago. The line, built in 2001, manufactures fiberboard that's one-tenth of an inch thick.

Crews were still working to return the No. 1 line to full production. It produces fiberboard up to 1-and-a-quarter inches thick:

"Last Monday, we restarted line 2, which is our thinner board line. It's been running well since then and we're getting ready this week to begin testing - and hopefully restart by the end of the week - line 1, which is the original line that produces the thicker board. (We're) still doing lots of electrical work; rewiring some of the conduit that was burnt, putting in some new electric motors that shorted out and doing more overall testing to make sure everything is operational".

A bearing failure on a raw material feed line triggered a series of explosions in the ductwork of the plant on June 10, starting a large fire. According to Ray, "that led to an overheating of the ductwork above that belt which caused the explosion above that ductwork that then traveled into that plant. The majority of the damage was on the outside of the mill. the inside, principally we had water damage from the fire suppression efforts; but most of the damage was right on the outside area of where the in-feed line comes into the mill."

No one was injured. The plant has about 180 employees.

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