The Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation's bio-energy plant was severely damaged in a blaze in the early morning hours of Monday, Feb. 23. Photo: Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services

A blaze early Monday morning at the Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation’s biomass energy generator at the Downie Timber property appears to have severely damaged the complex.

Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services got the 911 call just before midnight. Nobody was inside when the fire broke out.

A ladder truck attacks the fire from above. Photo: Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services
A ladder truck attacks the fire from above. Photo: Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services

“Upon arrival, fire crews found heavy smoke pouring from all sides of the building and began an interior fire attack,” said Revelstoke Fire Chief Rob Girard.

But the situation soon became too dangerous inside for firefighters as the fire spread to the roof, eventually causing parts of it to collapse.

Crews retreated to the exterior where they continued to blast water onto the building and the roof.

The fire department’s ladder truck was effective, the chief said, allowing firefighters to rain water down from above.

Flames and smoke shot out of the roof of the building as firefighters battled to contain the industrial blaze.

Two firefighters attack the blaze agh the left of the image while others work the flames that ripped through the roof. Photo: Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services
Two firefighters attack the blaze agh the left of the image while others work the flames that ripped through the roof. Photo: Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services

It took firefighters three hours to get the blaze out. Nobody was inside and none of the 23 people who battled the fire were hurt. A total of five fire trucks responded to the scene.

There is no official estimate of damage, but the roof of the complex was severely damaged and collapsed in many places. Chief Girard said it was still too dangerous for crews to go inside to assess, so they’ll be back in the morning to investigate.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“The career and volunteer firefighters worked tirelessly on this fire and I am proud of what they accomplished given the circumstances,” Chief Girard said. “We realize how important this facility is to the community.”

After the flames and smoke died down, it is clear there is major damage to the roof. The exterior metal roofing is burned, warped and left with gaping holes.

The aftermath: the metal roofing melted in the blaze leaving large, exposed areas. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
The aftermath: the metal roofing melted in the blaze leaving large, exposed areas. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The blaze appeared to be concentrated at the back half of the building where the generator is located. In that part of the building, an automated system feeds woodchips into a large burner, which transfers heat to a pipe system.

The pipe network travels to large buildings between Downie and downtown Revelstoke, providing heat for buildings including Revelstoke Secondary School, Revelstoke City Hall, the post office, the Revelstoke Community & Aquatic Centre, Minto Manor, Begbie View Elementary School and the Revelstoke Forum. It’s unclear what happens next for the buildings heated by the system. Some have backup heat.

An auger system on the floor feeds wood chips into the burner. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
An auger system on the floor feeds wood chips into the burner. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

The system also provides steam to the dry kilns at Downie Timber.

The energy plant is owned by the Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation, which is itself owned by the City of Revelstoke.

The idea to build the system started in the mid-1990s, and was designed to fulfill a number of objectives, including improving air quality, providing employment, and creating the district energy system. The first phase was finished in 2005 and new hook ups were completed later at the new high school and elementary school.

The fire is a huge setback for the community of Revelstoke.

A tour in late 2014 gives you and idea of the many potential hazards inside the building, including a large burner, pressurized pipes and confined spaces. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
A tour in late 2014 gives you and idea of the many potential hazards for firefighters inside the building, including a large burner, pressurized pipes, electrical hazards  and confined spaces. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

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