Tolko targets ‘end of the year’ reopening

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

It was just over a year ago on May 20, 2022 when a fire devastated the interior of the Tolko Industries mill 8 km west of High Prairie.

Damage to the press and press building was significant, and much of the equipment was a total loss, says Chris Downey, communications advisor, Tolko Industries.

“Work on assembling the new continuous press is progressing well, and the mill is aiming to be up and running by the end of the year,” says Downey.

“The construction at the site has included new concrete foundations and expanding the building size to accommodate the longer press. Along with the repairs, other projects and maintenance work include updates to the mill’s painting and wrapping area (which will use innovative robotic systems), and the installation of equipment that was repurposed from Tolko’s decommissioned Kelow- na mill,” he adds.

During the down time, the Alberta government has worked to ensure the mill’s survival.

“The Alberta government is being very supportive, and the ongoing relationship is key to ensuring that a viable fibre supply continues to be available to support Tolko’s operations in the province,” says Downey.

“With everything moving along, Tolko is continuing to look for great people to fill some vacancies at High Prairie. Job openings include certified power engineers, Human Resources and accounting positions, certified millwrights, and roles in production.”

He encourages interested people to check for the “chance to be a part of one of the most modernized OSB facilities in
North America.

“Once we rebuild, High Prairie will be better than ever; and we at Tolko look forward to continuing to look after our employees, customers, and the community.”

A statement issued by Tolko published in South Peace News shortly after the fire highlighted the disaster.

“It’s a difficult situation for Tolko’s employees and the community,” said Fred Chin, Tolko’s vice president, Strand Board Business, on the company’s website May 27.

“Work has started on how we can minimize the impact of lost time on people and their families,” he added.

“We want to assure everyone that we will soon put a recovery plan in place that will also us to get the High Prairie plant back up and operational.”

Tradespeople were allowed on site to start restoring power to areas that are unrestricted, and on May 30, operations teams started clean-up in restricted areas. Work continues toward a reopening.

Several fire departments responded to the fire at 5:14 a.m. A large black plume was visible from High Prairie prompting many residents to drive out to the site to see what was happening.

“Cooperation between all resources and all other agencies resulted in a successful, safe control of the fire,” said Town of High Prairie fire chief Trevor Cisaroski.

One employee was injured in the fire.

Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk reported at council’s meeting May 24 the cause of the fire.

“Apparently, it was a high pressure line that blew out onto the press,” he said.

“It was hot and it started the fire.”

Tolko opened its High Prairie mill in 1996.

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