Smoke billows from the headrig area of Alberni Pacific Division (APD) Sawmill on Port Alberni's waterfront

Smoke billows from the headrig area of Alberni Pacific Division (APD) Sawmill on Port Alberni's waterfront

Fire breaks out at APD Sawmill in Port Alberni

Crews from Port Alberni, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake were called out to battle a fire at the Western Forest Products mill.

A fire that apparently began in the headrig at Alberni Pacific Division (APD) Sawmill along Port Alberni’s waterfront sent smoke billowing into the sky that was visible for miles, Tuesday afternoon.

Crews from Port Alberni, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake fire departments responded with up to nine trucks at one point, as well as an ambulance. Reports from the scene had the building safely evacuated but no official word yet from the Port Alberni Fire Department.

Brenda Widdess, who can see the mill below her home, said on social media it was the “worst one we have seen in 34 years.”

The headrig is the saw that makes the initial cuts to a log as it is prepared into different sized timbers or planks.

The last time a fire broke out at APD was in November 2012 in the bag house portion of the mill.

WorksafeBC has been cracking down on sawmill safety after a pair of deadly fires, and stepping up inspections. Western Forest Products’ mills in Port Alberni—they own both APD and Somass Sawmill—passed inspection in mid-2014.