Saturday, 15 June 2013 20:48

It’s not a fire; it’s biomass

smokeThe lighting of the biomass boiler by the Hibbing Public Utilities (HPU) Wednesday resulted in smoke over the city.

The Hibbing Fire Department and 911 had received numerous calls reporting smoke or fires in the area, according to Fire Chief Scott Nehiba.

“There is smoke wafting through the city, but it’s not from a fire,” he said. “Until it (the biomass boiler) is burning efficiently, there will be some smoke.”

Nehiba said 911 and fire crews were aware of it, stressing there was no need to worry or call.

HPU lit off the wood boiler at 8 a.m. Wednesday, which resulted in a large amount of smoke coming from the stack, said HPU General Manager Gary Myers.

HPU lights the boiler about three or four times a year, and it does generate smoke as workers slowly warm the wood and slowly increase the temperature until it comes online.

This process takes four to six hours, Myers said. There may have been more smoke than normal coming from the boiler Wednesday morning due to wet wood.

When the wood is wet, HPU needs to put more air on it to get it lit, Myers said.

He added that the smoke was expected to disappear once the wood was burning well, and area residents should’ve noticed less smoke by mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Nehiba said HFD contacted HPU Wednesday, adding that they have discussed HPU giving HFD notice of when they light boilers in the future.

“That way we could give more notice out to the public,” he said.

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