SEVEN people, including three firefighters, have been injured following an explosion at a sawmill in Moray in the Highlands.
The drama began at about 8am yesterday when a fire broke out at James Jones and Sons’ timber division on the Greshop Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Forres.
Three firefighters who were tackling the blaze in a storage silo, which held sawdust from timber that had been cut on the site, were injured when they were engulfed in an explosion at about 10am.
Five ambulances and an air ambulance were called to the scene and casualties were taken to hospital.
A 59-year-old man, believed to have been employed at the sawmill, suffered serious burns and was airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Two firefighters, both aged 47, and a third worker aged 20, were rushed to Raigmore hospital in Inverness for treatment to burns. A third firefighter suffered minor injuries.
All the injured firefighters were in retained posts, which means they also hold full-time jobs elsewhere or are self-employed.
Ambulances also took two men, aged 62 and 24, to Dr Gray’s hospital in Elgin for treatment.
Some were described as “walking wounded”.
Last night, police confirmed there would be a joint investigation involving themselves, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Health and Safety Executive, but said that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the fire.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service had three fire engines and 15 firefighters on the scene.
A spokesman for Grampian division of the service said: “Control received a call at 8am this morning reporting a fire in a silo at James Jones and Sons’ sawmill in Greshop Industrial Estate, Forres.
“Three appliances, two from Forres and one from Elgin, were sent to the scene to tackle the fire.
“Firefighters in breathing apparatus used one hose reel jet and one main jet.
“Whilst firefighters were removing the contents of the silo an explosion occurred injuring three firefighters and four members of staff from the site.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman confirmed the service had four ambulances, a helicopter, a special operations team, two officers and two doctors on the scene.
A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive, the national independent watchdog for work-related safety, said:
“We are aware of the incident and an inspector is on site working with Police Scotland.”
Aaron McLean, SNP councillor for the Forres ward on Moray Council, said the incident had shaken the small community.
He said: “We are all shocked by what has happened. I don’t think many people knew about it until they saw the air ambulance. Our thoughts are with those who were injured. The sawmill employs about 40-50 people and I went to school with at least four of them. A lot of people in the town will know the firefighters who are all volunteers.”
Councillor George Alexander, who represents Forres on the Moray Council, said the fire at a sawmill was an “unfortunate incident”.
Last September, the John Gordon and Sons sawmill in Balblair Road in Nairn was badly damaged by fire. No-one was injured at the sawmill but approximately 30 per cent of the building was damaged by fire.