Bundaberg Sugar says a fire causing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ damage at one of its mills will delay the start of the crush there by two weeks.
A crew of 28 firefighters fought two separate blazes at the Millaquin Mill late on Friday night, which is believed to have started with embers from the boiler furnace setting a bagasse conveyor alight.
“On arrival we had fire in an elevated steel construction, up in some bagasse hoppers, including the conveyor belts,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Bundaberg station officer Trevor Duncan said.
“When we first arrived we actually had two blazes, one to the construction part … the second one was over in a new hopper bin area where the bagasse gets stored.
“The fear was that fire was going to get into that bin and ignite the substance inside that hopper.”
Bagasse is the waste left over after crushing sugar cane.
Mr Duncan said a firefighter injured his knee while working to contain the blaze and the few mill workers who were on site also pitched in to fight the fire, which had the potential to destroy part of the factory.
“If the fire had got in to the hopper, the new hopper, the intensity of the fire and the heat in there could have been enough to collapse that construction,” he said.
Bundaberg Sugar general manager operations, David Pickering, said the company was investigating the cause of the fire.
“This is an unfortunate set of circumstances with the mill scheduled to commence crushing for the 2016 season on Monday, June 13,” he said.
“Damage to the bagasse conveyor system will prevent the crushing mill from operating.
“From an early assessment, the fire damage may delay the start of crushing at Millaquin for up to two weeks.”
He said repairs would start after insurance assessors inspected the site, but the damage was likely to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Spare replacement equipment is already stored on site so this will allow us to commence work immediately on the damaged conveyor,” Mr Pickering said.
“Fortunately there was no switchboard damage and the fire didn’t extend to the bagasse silo.”
Bundaberg Sugar said its other mill, Bingera, would start today as planned.