Fire damages Bunge canola plant in northeastern Sask.

Accumark Airspray posted this picture on Facebook the evening of August 2 of the Bunge canola plant in Nipawin, Sask. | Accumark Airspray photo

Bunge Canada’s canola processing plant near Nipawin, Sask., will be shut down indefinitely after a fire destroyed two large pieces of equipment at the facility yesterday.

Nipawin fire chief Brian Starkell confirmed this morning that fire broke out in the crush plant Aug. 2 around 5 p.m.

The fire was contained to one building, which suffered structural damage.

Several pieces of equipment were damaged inside, including two large machines that were used to crush canola.

Officials from Bunge were not immediately available for comment, but it’s expected that crushing operations will be suspended indefinitely until the plant is repaired.

“The fire was in the equipment and it was extremely hot in the building, so it was very difficult to get to burning area,” Starkell said.

“The building received some structural damage but very little. The fire was contained to the equipment.”

The Nipawin Fire Department responded to the fire shortly after 5 p.m.

Six fire trucks were deployed along with 28 firefighters.

RCMP, emergency response personnel, SaskPower and SaskEnergy were also on site.

No injuries were reported.

The Bunge facility, located five kilometres south of Nipawin on Highway 35, is an important delivery point for canola growers in northeastern Saskatchewan.

Terry Youzwa, a Nipawin area canola grower and chair of the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, said the loss of the facility just weeks before harvest will be felt by local growers.

“Our first concern is with the employees who contribute to our community,” Youzwa said.

“Their safety is our foremost concern. Beyond that, we hope that the equipment not too badly damaged and comes back online in a reasonable timeframe.”

Youzwa, whose farm is located just a few kilometres away, said the plant has been adding storage capacity and improving crush efficiency.

It is the delivery point of choice for many local oilseed producers, particularly for early harvested crops.

Sources say the plant processes close to 1,500 tonnes per day, although that has not been confirmed by Bunge.

Canola harvesting in the Nipawin area is expected to begin later this month.

As of early today, it was unclear how the fire is likely affect Bunge’s procurement plans.

“Certainly it could cause some stresses for storage and early movement in the short term, but first we need to see how bad the situation is,” said Youzwa.

“We’re looking at starting swathing in 10 days to two weeks and if you add another 10 days to that you’re into new crop, so we’re hoping for the best.”

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