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Equipment Failure Sparks Explosion At Plum Creek Plant In Columbia Falls

Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant
Katrin Frye
Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant

No lives were lost, no one was injured and no one will be laid off. That from Plum Creek Timber Company officials in response to yesterday's small explosion and fire at its medium-density fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls.

Plum Creek Vice President Tom Ray says a machine-bearing failure led to yesterday morning's explosion on the plant's number one production line. That's where wood fiber is sent to be processed into fiberboard.

"We do preventive maintenance on all the bearings within the plant, but it appears this one, for some reason, disintegrated. It happened so quickly that we didn't have time to catch it before it caused the heat transfer that led to the small explosion.

Ray says fire-suppression equipment needs to be recharged and a full investigation must be completed.

That means production on Line 1 won't resume until early next week at the soonest, but no employees will be laid off.

A bearing failure at that same plant in early June of last year led to a three week production shutdown. Ray says this week's incident was in a different part of the plant and unrelated to what happened last year. 

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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