City of Prince George engineers are relieved that a major fire at a Canfor Pulp mill will not hinder plans to pump warm water from two of the company's steam plants to the Nechako River in an attempt to melt the ice jam that has been plaguing the city since mid-December.
The fire destroyed a four-storey wood-chip separator building and a large conveyor belt used to move chips at the Prince George Pulp and Paper Mill, Canfor Pulp general manager David Scott said. It broke out around 6 p.m. Tuesday, and 20 firefighters took several hours to get the blaze under control.
Two people were slightly hurt, one with minor smoke inhalation and another with an injured hand, Mr. Scott said. He said that despite the fire, the mill was operating at full capacity yesterday by shifting the chip separation process to a different Canfor Pulp facility nearby.
Meanwhile, preparations continue for the creation of a two-kilometre-long heavy plastic pipe and pump system that will bring a continual flow of warm water to the Nechako from two other Canfor Pulp mills located in a semi-rural area north of the city, Dave Dyer, chief engineer for Prince George, said.
The provincial government approved the warm-water-pipe proposal on Monday. It is expected to cost $500,000.
Mr. Dyer said the materials to build it will be ordered this week, and the pipes should be set up and ready for use in about two weeks. The plan is to have the 15-degree water flow into the river around 1½ kilometres upriver from where the Nechako meets the Fraser River.
Currently, he said, the temperature of the river is just above freezing and he expects the warm water to have an immediate impact.
"The attempt to clear the jam this way is unique, from what we understand, and certainly it has not been done on this scale," Mr. Dyer said.
The main challenge, he said, is that the Nechako splits into side channels and small islets at the point where they plan to place the pipes.
"We may need a helicopter to pull the last section of pipe in the centre of the river," he said. "That's one of the challenges we have to face. The closer we get [the warm water]to the confluence, the better, because that is what we want to shift first."