Despite Bio Wood Processing being hit by a fire and an explosion in the first three months of business this spring, county and fire officials say they aren't concerned with the safety of the facility.
Bio Wood, which processes truckloads of scrap wood -- like pallets and demolition building material -- into mulch, wood chips and animal bedding, opened its doors March 7 south of Faribault.
A week later, on March 15, the Faribault Fire Department was called to the facility for a report of a fire. According to Fire Capt. Mike David, a fire that started in the plant was sucked into the facility's air system, called a dust collector or bagger house.
Bio Wood owner Kim Halvorson said the installation of the wrong motor -- a sealed motor was supposed to be put in, but an open motor was installed instead -- on the plant's conveyer system caused that fire.
"Dust hit the motor and created a spark, and you know what happens from there," Halvorson said.
Kevin Murphy, the county's building official, said the motor was never inspected by his department because it was not a building component. The structure had to be built to 2006 International Building Code standards, which the county has adopted.
Very little damage was reported in the March 15 fire, according to both Halvorson and David, and the motor was replaced.
The second incident -- an explosion in the dust collector on June 1 -- was a different story. The dust collector sustained major damage and needs to be rebuilt.
Halvorson said the insurance company is still investigating what caused the explosion, but that they are getting close to finding out exactly what happened. She would say it was possibly related to an equipment malfunction.
"I think we’ve narrowed it down to an issue," she said. "The machine we are operating is a prototype -- the only one like it in the world operating ... This is how we learn. New technology is driven by a need for change and once that change happens we have to deal with the issues that are driven by a new technology and then once those are all ironed out life is good."
Joe Berg, the city's director of fire and emergency management, said he and his staff were not alarmed by being called out to Bio Wood for a second time, partially because it was an entirely different incident.
"They got a string of bad luck that's all," Berg said. "We know they're working to get their equipment operating properly and that it has nothing to do with the process they're doing. It's just brand new equipment that they're getting dialed in."
"This doesn't start a track record for the business at this point, in my mind," he said.
Murphy, who issued Bio Wood its certificate of occupancy and zoning compliance May 23 after a temporary CO expired in late April, said he reached out to the Halvorsons after the second incident.
"I just wanted to find out what was going on," Murphy said. "I know they have manufacturers out there and they are working diligently to get this figured out. I'm confident they will do everything they can and get back on track."
Meanwhile, Halvorson said Bio Wood continues to operate but is taking precautions by bypassing the piece of equipment that is believed to have caused the explosion.
Reach Rebecca Rodenborg at 333-3128 or follow her on Twitter.com @FDNRebecca