The four-alarm fire at the East Providence wood pellet company last week appears to be “accidental” and the result of the production processes at the Ferris Avenue plant.
Nothing was official as of Friday afternoon, said Paul Manning, an inspector at the RI State Fire Marshal’s Office. Evidence was still being gathered at Inferno Wood Pellet in Rumford, he said. An official determination had to be made by the state fire marshal, who was not expected back in the office until Monday.
Representatives from two federal agencies, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, were calling the plant a “crime scene” at one point. They joined inspectors from the state fire marshal’s office and local fire officials in the investigation.
East Providence fire officials said early on that it appeared very likely that sparks created during the production of pellets ignited dust in the air. Acting East Providence Fire Marshal James Bellamy said from the start of the investigation that it appeared to be a “dust fire.”
The blaze was started by an explosion around 2:30 pm on Tuesday that caused first and second degree burns to one worker who was treated at Rhode Island Hospital. He reportedly also was thrown 20 feet by the blast. There were no other injuries.
The fire destroyed much of the central section of the building and caused a partial roof collapse. East Providence firefighters stayed on the scene through Tuesday night to watch for any remaining “hot spots.”
East Providence Fire Chief Oscar Elmasian praised the firefighters for doing a really good job at the plant. They had the fire extinguished in about four hours with some help from Pawtucket, Seekonk and Warren companies.