Abbotsford firefighters put out a fire following an explosion in a grain silo at a feed mill on Wednesday afternoon.
Abbotsford Fire Rescue crews were called out to Ritchie Smith Feeds at 33777 Enterprise Avenue at 12:14 p.m. following reports of a blast.
It's believed a contract welder doing repairs to the side of a silo heated materials clinging to the wall that turned into embers, which then ignited combustible dust in the air causing a powerful explosion.
The force of the blast sent 20-foot flames out the top of the silo and caused a fire in the air-filtering unit in the upper level of the mill, said AFRS fire inspector Keith Dyck.
The welder was still on the roof when the explosion took place but working far enough away that he wasn't injured, Dyck said.
""He's very fortunate. If the explosion had happened sooner, we would have had a fatal accident with that kind of force."
The hot weather and the location of the fire deep inside the equipment made it a difficult fire to extinguish.
Firefighters had to access the roof using two aerial ladder trucks and worked to contain the fire inside the filtration unit.
Crews cut a hole in the bottom of the silo to release the water and avoid further damage to the structure or its collapse.
Damage to the mill was limited to $5,000.
Feed mills, like lumber mills, are vulnerable to air particle or dust explosions, said Dyck.
Wood dust is the suspected cause of two fatal mill explosions earlier this year in Prince George and Burns Lake.
Leon Wamsteeker, mill manager at Ritchie Smith Feeds, agreed it was fortunate no one was injured.
The company is going to take steps to ensure that safety protocols are followed more closely, Wamsteeker said.
Overall operations at the mill have not been impacted by the fire.