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Workers safe after explosions, fire rock Montana wood-products plant

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[June 11, 2014]  (Reuters) - Explosions and a fire engulfed a Montana wood-products plant owned by Plum Creek Timber Co on Tuesday but all workers were accounted for and no injuries were reported, an emergency official said.

Dozens of fire crews were battling flames at the facility in the northwest Montana community of Columbia Falls several hours after the blaze broke out between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. (2100 GMT and 2200 GMT), said Cindy Mullaney, deputy director of the Flathead County Office of Emergency Services.

Sixty workers were safely evacuated from the plant, she said. The facility, owned by the Seattle-based timber giant, produces medium-density fiberboard used for shelving, cabinetry and paneling, according to the company's website.

It was not known what caused the explosions and flames and how extensively the complex in Columbia Falls was damaged, said Mullaney.

"We're still dealing with the fire situation at this point," she said Tuesday evening.

Plum Creek officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The plant uses such chemical agents as resins and formaldehyde at high heat to form its engineered wood products, according to an air-pollution permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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The company is one of the largest private landowners in the nation, managing roughly 6.8 million acres (2.75 million hectares) of forested lands in 19 states, its website says.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckermanin Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Robert Birsel)

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