Sawmill dust levels under scrutiny

Forest industry officials are asking researchers based at the University of British Columbia to determine what role aging pine beetle wood, and the fine dust it produces when milled, may have played in two recent explosions at sawmills in northern B.C.

“This wood is dry,” said John Allan, president of the Council of Forrest Industries, referring to pine beetle wood that has been standing dead for extended periods of time and produces an extremely fine dust when cut.

Experts have long known that dust of all kinds in confined spaces can lead to deadly explosions, but until recently the fine dust created by dry pine beetle wood had not been singled out as a possible high risk for combustion.