Enclosed you find course of events of fire burst at our mill as a summary, which is listed in chronological order from 22nd until 25th of May 2018. Fortunately both paper machines are on track again since the weekend 26th/27th of May.
Tuesday morning, 22nd of May 2018
On Monday morning at 4:15 pm, there was a major fire on the waste paper stock of the paper production unit of our factory. The fire spread even above our fire protection lanes within minutes. Although the fire department was alarmed immediately and arrived only a few minutes on the factory's premises after the alarm was released. The fire spread rapidly, driven by very strong winds from eastern direction. Thank goodness, no casualties among our personnel, but the physical damage was enormous. Several thousand tons of waste paper were affected. The courageous efforts of the fire brigades and the THW (technical brigades) prevented the flames from spreading to the buildings and the paper machines inside. The fire was already under control that day, but the extinguishing work continued much longer.
We would like to thank all fire departments from Varel and the surrounding communities, representatives of the authorities, the THW, the employees, who helped on the site in fire fighting and all other supporters.
After the outbreak of the fire the firefighting proceeded well throughout the day. Not all burning waste paper bales could be extinguished on the spot, thus waste paper bales can hold the embers for a very long time.
In cooperation with the authorities, experts were also consulted to assess the impact on the environment. Their assessment has shown that there is no danger from smoke and ashes near the PKV site or further afield. Waste paper is a natural wood fiber based raw material. Anyhow, as precaution we recommended to local residents to keep windows closed, until the fire is completely extinguished and you no longer perceive any impairment.
All quantities of firefighting water were stored in buffer tanks and chemical analyzes were made on it. Also the remains of the burned waste paper were analyzed and in cooperation with environmental authorities decisions about disposal procedures were taken.
For the cause of the fire, there are no approaches to a third parties fault or arson. It was a chain of unfortunate circumstances with a special focus on the very dry weather and the strong wind over the Whitsun weekend.
Wednesday, 23rd of May
Relief is spreading: The huge fire, which broke out on the factory´s premises on Whit Monday, was successfully fought. All bales were redeployed and the embers extinguished. The fire brigade, THW and all other task forces left until afternoon that day, because the situation could be considered as safe again. Nevertheless several fire trucks remained on the site to extinguish any up-flaming embers immediately. There was no more any significant smoke or hovering ash particles around.
In the coming days, the restoration of the site was organized. In close cooperation with the authorities disposal concepts for the incinerated waste paper and the extinguishing water were worked out. Restart of paper production was scheduled for the weekend ahead.
Thursday, 24th of May
Slowly the PKV crew and the companies responsible for the clean-up work saw some light at the end of the tunnel. The residues of the burned waste paper were collected on separate ground in a back corner of the waste paper stock. The reconditioned areal was prepared for refilling with new waste paper deliveries for the restart of the paper machines on Friday.
At the same time, work on a disposal concept for the burnt waste paper and extinguishing water together with waste management experts started. Supervisory authorities had no objection to schedule restart of paper machines for Friday. All employees were prepared to supply customers again from next week on with corrugating paper the way it used to be. Our main gate reopened on Wednesday and new supplies of waste paper were delivered. During the time of firefighting the main gate was closed completely and all incoming and outgoing trucks were bypassed to a temporary truck access. The logistical emergency concept combined with a great workforce has worked very well. Firemen were still based on our premises ready to take action immediately in case of any newly upcoming fires.
All new deliveries in waste paper were separated very carefully from burned remains. We did anything to avoid any mixing-up of burned remains and newly incoming waste paper. All measures were accompanied by external safety coordinators in the following weeks.
Friday, 25th of May
At 7:00 am the first trucks delivered new waste paper supplies. Previously, the partner companies commissioned for the clean-up and disposal work freed the necessary storage areas from the burnt waste paper remains and cleaned the asphalt during another night shift.
The multi-product paper machine 4 went back to production at around 8:00 am after the papermakers made all preparations for starting up the night before. Paper machine 5 was restarted around noon. During the weekend the warehouse could be filled with newly produced corrugating paper in order to be able to provide the customer with paper again as from Monday on.
We would like to thank all involved persons and institutions from rescue services, authorities and partner companies, who helped us to overcome this critical situation within such a short time. Their performance and cooperation made it possible to put the paper machines into operation again only 4 days after the fire inferno. This is an extraordinary achievement. Thanks to everyone, who helped us to resist this threatening challenge. Of course, a 24-hour fire fighting service is always stand-by, in order to fight any new endangering incidents immediately. Hopefully it is not necessary for them to take action!