The Elk Falls pulp and paper mill site is shown here around the time it shut down. The mill was permanently closed in 2010. Black Press file photo

Collapsed floor traps worker at decommissioned North Island pulp mill

Man frees self, escapes injury, investigation underway at Elk Falls facility in Campbell River

A collapsed floor trapped a worker and caused a gas leak at a former North Island pulp mill on Saturday, but nobody was harmed in the incident, according to Thomas Doherty, chief of the Campbell River Fire Department.

Firefighters were dispatched to the Elk Falls pulp and paper mill site at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday following the report of a collapsed building with a person trapped inside, Doherty said.

“When crews arrived on-scene, they confirmed there was a partial collapse of a building on-site, the old craft mill building,” he said “The workers on-site confirmed that the occupant that was trapped was able to self-extricate.”

Members of BC Ambulance assessed the worker on-site, and he wasn’t transported to hospital, Doherty said.

“He was pinned underneath some debris there, but was able to free himself,” Doherty said. “It was a lucky day for him.”

An interior floor collapsed inside the multi-storey building, he said. The building itself still stands.

It’s unclear what caused the collapse. Demolition work is currently underway at the former mill, but not at the building where the collapse took place on Saturday, Doherty said.

The collapse resulted in the rupture of a 400-pound oxygen tank and a 100-pound propane cylinder, and firefighters cordoned off the area and let the gases dissipate, according to Doherty. The leaks posed no threat to the public or environment, he said.

READ MORE: Remedial work continues at Elk Falls

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The oxygen blew away immediately, he said. Propane is heavier than air, meaning that it can settle in low-lying areas. However, factors including wind direction allowed the gas to dissipate, Doherty said.

The fire department is prepared for these kinds of situations, he said, noting that Campbell River firefighters are trained in hazardous material response and technical rope rescues.

The site of the former Catalyst pulp and paper mill, which closed permanently in 2010, is currently owned by Rockyview Resources. The Calgary-based company bought the property in May 2016 following the bankruptcy of the site’s previous owner, Quicksilver Resources Canada.

Rockyview is an oil and gas exploration firm that aims to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at the site, a project dubbed Discovery LNG.

Black Press contacted the company using a phone number on the Discovery LNG website. An official who provided only his first name declined to provide details about the incident, saying “We’re doing an investigation.”

He referred further questions to another official who didn’t immediately reply to a voicemail and text message on Monday.

WorkSafeBC confirmed that it was notified about an incident at the mill “that caused no injuries” on Saturday morning.

“An officer has been assigned and WorkSafeBC is responding,” said a WorkSafeBC spokesperson in an email.

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