BURNS LAKE (NEWS1130) - An explosion at a sawmill near Burns Lake has mobilized the health care system across the Northern Interior after Babine Forest Products mill was rocked by an explosion and fire just after 8 p.m. on Friday.

RCMP say about 25 workers were at the mill at the time of the explosion. Members of the village’s council tell News1130 that 19 people are hurt and several are in critical condition. There are reports that two people are missing.

Steve Raper with Northern Health Authority says hospitals brought in extra staff to handle all the patients.  He adds medical services over a wide area responded under a code orange.

“That mobilizes position staff, all of the support services, supply services from Prince George to Smithers to address the incident and to ensure we have the people available to treat the patients.”

Raper says 15 people were hospitalized, eight of them are being cared for in Prince George. Meanwhile, two were airlifted to Vancouver and another two have been sent to Edmonton.

Some employees are reporting smelling gas ahead of the blast.

Photos and video footage show the entire mill engulfed in flames. Fire departments from other regions were reportedly called in to help.

Trevor Louie lives in Prince George and has family and friends who work at the mill. 

“I’ve got a hold of my intermediate family and I’m hoping everyone else got out safe,” he says. “My uncle and everyone there worked there for over 30 years.”

Mayor Luke Strimbold is expected to have another update later Saturday evening.

Statement from Mayor Luke Strimbold
“Our community is in the midst of dealing with a serious incident.  We have crews on site providing the necessary measures and surrounding additional resources.  This is a difficult time for our community and we need to pull together to ensure we provide the best support possible.  Every individual, their families, and all those involved are in our thoughts.”