Regional effort douses Sierra Pine fire

Firefighters fight 15-foot flames shooting out of roof
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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15-foot flames shoot out of roof as the fire just misses igniting toxic chemicals By Jon Brines Placer Herald Correspondent The black, bitterly pungent smoke was enough to make your eyes water. “I just happened by it,” said Rocklin resident Brandon Scott. “I saw a bunch of guys, who work here, trying to put it out before the firefighters showed up.” Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, a fire erupted in the sawdust near the ambient air scrubbers at Sierra Pine, 4300 Dominguez Road off Taylor Road, according to Placer Fire District Division Chief Bryan Ransdell. “The fire started in the press area, which went up into the pipes,” Ransdell said. Of concern was nearby containers of sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda or lye, which could have made a toxic cloud over the facility, forcing evacuations. “The scrubber is made of about three feet of fiber glass. The burning fiberglass was toxic as well,” Ransdell said. Firefighters from Rocklin, Loomis, Roseville, South Placer Fire and Penryn converged to knock the flames down within the first hour. Meeks Lumber and Hardware Store Sales Manager Todd Burgers works across the street from the fire location and called 9-1-1 to report the fire. “I saw the smoke billowing out of one of the stacks over there,” Burgers said. “(Sierra Pine workers) tore down part of the pipe.” According to Ransdell, about a dozen employees of Sierra Pine discovered the fire and tried to put it out with company hoses, then worked alongside firefighters to dismantle the scrubber with a cherry-picker forklift to get the fire ventilated. At the height of the blaze, Rocklin and Roseville firefighters climbed on top of the building and broke a hole in the roof’s venting system coming from the scrubber to prevent an explosion and vent the flames. “It was burning through the silver tubes,” Ransdell said “We always want to open the top of the roof because smoke and heat rises. When you open that up it relieves all that pressure.” That’s when 10- to 15-foot-high flames shot out of the hole created by the fire crews. No injuries were reported and witnesses were surprised at how quickly firefighters worked. “When they opened it up a whole bunch of flames shot out,” Scott said. “I think they did a great job.” Sierra Pine is a privately-held composite wood products company. The Rocklin location specializes in the production of medium density fiberboard used for furniture and cabinets, according to their website. Burgers and police and fire officials admit Sierra Pine has been the site of several fires in the past. “It is not uncommon for us to all come out here and converge on fires here,” Ransdell said. Even so, Ransdell said the fires have created a positive working relationship that has spurred regional fire departments to converge on Sierra Pine to do training exercises. “We did training last year,” Ransdell said. “We have a real good relationship with Sierra Pine.” Sierra Pine officials could not be reached for comment.