BY RICHARD GILBERT - Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) and the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) are investigating a fire at a shingle manufacturing facility in Calgary earlier this month.
“The contractor was doing demolition work on a section of the asphalt-shingle plant, when the fire broke out,” said Alberta OH&S spokesperson Brookes Merritt.
“This portion of the building was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no injuries occurred.”
The Calgary fire department responded to a 911 call about a building fire at the 1600 block of 42nd Avenue SE on the morning of March 11 at about <0x000a>11 a.m.
The prime contractor on the project is IKO Industries, which manufactures and supplies residential roofing materials and commercial roofing products.
The demolition contractor on the project is Quantum Murray LP.
The media reported widely that the contracting crew was dismantling a piece of equipment, called a saturator, with a cutting torch.
It is believed this is how something ignited.
“When fire crews arrived they found heavy, dark smoke with flames coming from the building, which is used to manufacture shingles and roofing material,” said a City of Calgary press release.
“On arrival, the CFD upgraded the incident to a three alarm fire.”
Calgary fire crews used aerial platforms to fight the fire from several elevated angles.
The fire was under control by 2 p.m. and some parts of the building had collapsed.
Firefighter efforts were hindered by the fact that they could not enter the structure as it had been weakened by the fire and interior renovations.
The company was storing shingles and roofing materials in the building.
With the burning of those materials, the Hazardous Materials team was called in to conduct air monitoring in the area.
They did not find any air quality issues and no injuries were reported.
The CFD remained at the scene throughout the night to put out hot spots.
More than 60 employees from the affected building were evacuated in addition to surrounding businesses.
Most employees have been able to return to their evacuated workplaces.
While, the CFD and OH&S have yet to release the official cause of the fire, they have determined, with a fair degree of certainty, that the fire was accidental.
“At this early stage of the investigation IKO as the owner was required to bring in a team of engineers to assess the safety of the plant, before anyone could return to that area of the plant,” said Merritt.
“The structural engineers submitted a report to OH&S that said the building was safe enough for fire investigators to enter.”
In addition, OH&S has ordered the contractor to conduct their own independent investigation, which is standard practice.
This investigation will run parallel to the OH&S investigation. The two investigations are independent of one another.
According to Merritt, IKO has a history of fires, but recently the company has a much improved record.
Merritt said IKO reported 13 fires to OH&S between 2002 and 2009.
“Most of the fires were attributed to either the processing or storage of materials,” he said.
“Some were attributed to welding. No one was injured.”
However, this recent fire, which is the first fire at the facility in five years, is being attributed to the work of the contractor.
For this reason, it is considered to be unrelated to the history of fires at the facility.
“Apart from the fires, IKO remains under the microscope of the OH&S because of their lost time claims rate,” said Merritt.
IKO had a lost time claims rate of 5.26 in 2011, which increased from 3.12 in 2007.
To put this number in context, the average lost time claim rate for the roofing manufacturing industry was 2.38 in 2011.