Sawdust, wood shavings and chips, which are suspected to have played a part in two recent deadly sawmill explosions, have also fuelled dozens of fires at B.C. sawmills over the past decade.
Sawdust was listed as the material that first caught fire in more than half of 89 sawmill fires in Interior B.C. between 2001 and 2011, according to B.C. Fire Commissioner incident reports obtained by The Vancouver Sun.
It was ignited most often by sparks (52%), followed by friction heat (25%), hot objects and direct flame (each 8%).
The sources of the ignition included bearings, electric panels, welding equipment, cutting torches, wiring, general machinery and in one case a halogen lamp.
The explosive capacity of dust in the sawmills was noted in comments attached to the individual incident reports filed by local assistant fire commissioners, which were obtained under a provincial freedom of information request.