SUMAS - An explosion shook the southern end of Sumas Wednesday, Oct. 9, when a spark from feed mill equipment caught a shaft full of grain and dust on fire around 5 p.m., according to firefighters.
Mill workers at EPL Feed were transferring feed from outside storage bins through an elevator system when a bearing from one of the motors at the top of the shaft overheated and created a spark, District 14 Fire Chief Jerry DeBruin said.
"There's so much dust there, and it's so dry, it's almost like gunpowder," DeBruin said.
None of the dozen or so employees working at the time were injured in the explosion, he said.
"It shook everything around there," DeBruin said. "It was pretty impressive from what I was told by people in town."
The blast blew apart the mechanism, tearing the bottom end of the metal shaft apart and sending flames out the top and bottom for a short time. Smoke filled the mill, but the fire mostly blew itself out, DeBruin said.
"I'm guessing the damage is for sure more than $10,000," he said.
A panel on the transfer leg blew out, and the company is waiting on a bid for the replacement cost, said Steve Skogrand, EPL production manager. He said he thought $10,000 sounded a little high, because there was technically very little damage.
The mill was up and running again within a few hours of the incident, Skogrand said.
About 20 firefighters remained on scene for more than an hour while they put out embers and checked the other shafts for signs of fire, DeBruin said.
The same mill had a similar explosion when it was first built around 20 years ago, DeBruin said.
Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-756-2803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.