Federal workplace safety officials are continuing an investigation into the explosion that caused a four-alarm fire at the Inferno Wood Pellet factory on Ferris Avenue on Tuesday.
The cityâ€™s fire chief, Oscar Elmasian, said fire officials have completed their investigation as to the cause of the accident, but said he preferred that the findings be officially released by the state fire marshal, whose office was already closed for the day Thursday.
Elmasian said that as with any large industrial complex, the Fire Department has visited the factory before, but most fires have been relatively routine. Whatever fires that have taken place there in the past, the chief said, have been small fires that were confined to the machinery itself, due to its being hooked up to fire suppression systems.
John P. Ferreira, president and one of the principal owners of the company, said through his lawyer, Eric Brainsky, that it is a credit to the way that the company protects its workers that only one person was injured in Tuesdayâ€™s incident. The person suffered first- and second-degree burns. The factory typically has 20 workers and, according to Ferreira, is likely to be shut down for a few weeks.
Patrick Griffin, head of the Rhode Island field office for the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which is investigating the workplace conditions at the factory, said the explosion reminded him of one that heavily damaged the New England Wood Pellet factory in Jaffrey, N.H., in January 2008. That investigation led OSHA to conclude that the company had not taken adequate steps to protect its employees from wood-dust explosions and other fire hazards. OSHA fined the company $135,000.