A second worker has died after an explosion leveled a sawmill in Prince George, B.C. on Monday night. The 24-year-old man was airlifted to hospital in Edmonton, where he died Tuesday, the CBC reports. His identity isn’t being revealed until his family has been notified.
Earlier Tuesday, it was confirmed that Alan Little, 43, had also died after the explosion at the Lakeland Mills sawmill. The two deceased were among 24 employees on site when a “ball of flame” consumed the sawmill.
As the Globe and Mail reports, all sawmills in the province will undergo mandatory safety reviews regarding sawdust build-up. “We believe this is a prudent step to take… Combustible dust and dust accumulation is an issue,” vice-president of corporate services at WorkSafeBC Roberta Ellis told the newspaper. “We are looking at the issue of dust. Of course, we are.”
In January, a similar explosion killed two workers at another sawmill in the community of Burns Lake, B.C.
The two incidents have sparked concerns over the implications of dust build-up from processing trees that have been afflicted with the mountain pine beetle, an insect that has ravaged forests in the B.C. Interior in recent years. Although no concrete evidence has been found linking the explosions to the beetle-killed trees, Caribou North MLA Bob Simpson told the Canadian Press that many say the logs crumble apart more easily and produce more dust.
George Astrakianakis, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, said it’s “entirely plausible” that dust from pine beetle trees is responsible for the explosions, since more dust increased the risk of a large inferno is something sparks a fire.