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Laminex factory ‘fireball’ blast leaves workers rattled

STILL IN BUSINESS: Gympie’s Laminex particle board plant on the Tin can Bay Road is back in production after Sunday’s fire.
STILL IN BUSINESS: Gympie’s Laminex particle board plant on the Tin can Bay Road is back in production after Sunday’s fire. File Photo

A SUSPECTED sawdust explosion led to a major fire at Gympie's Laminex factory on Sunday morning.

The factory, one of the region's significant employers, was damaged but not critically, according to a response from Laminex owner, the Fletcher Building Company.

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Service spokesman said the blaze led to a marathon 13-hour operation, with "21 fire fighters on the ground at the peak."

Two nearby workers escaped injury when a large fireball erupted in a section of the factory where wood fibres are pumped into presses to make fibreboard.

A handful of employees were in the immediate vicinity of the explosion.

Two of them were within metres. Neither was injured but one was said to have been "a bit rattled."

The Gympie Times has been told workmen smelt smoke about 3.30am near the plant's G2 press.

They immediately investigated and discovered flames in one of the fibre bins. The flames were extinguished with fire extinguishers.

But the fire either re-ignited or had continued smouldering. internally.

"The next minute it just went "Boosh!" and burst into flames," one fire fighter said.

"It was very loud. It was an explosion. Coals and ash shot out the side," he said.

"We got the call about 3.45am," the QFES spokesman said. "We were on site until 4.30pm.

"The damage was quite extensive and was in amongst machinery, so it was difficult to be sure it was out.

"They say it exploded in a very large fireball.

"Five fire appliances were there, with two special appliances (a long ladder vehicle and a communication centre truck with thermal imaging equipment and rest facilities).

Although the incident was spectacular, it seems the damage was contained and the employment of an estimated 200 workers remains safe.

"As of today, our manufacturing plant is fully operational," the spokesman said yesterday. The fire had caused "no impact on our ability to make product and to service our customers.

"The affected part of the plant will be cleaned up and recommissioned as soon as possible.

"There will be a thorough investigation and until this is completed we will not speculate on the cause of the fire," he said.

Topics:  blast explosion factory gympie workers

Gympie Times