ASHLAND, Maine — Town officials pledged to lend support Wednesday to the owner of a pellet manufacturing business that was gutted by fire early on Tuesday morning.
The fire at Northeast Pellets forced 12 employees out of work until the facility can be rebuilt.
The fire broke out just after midnight Tuesday as employees worked in the building. Wood, sawdust and other materials quickly fed the blaze as firefighters spent 11 hours trying to knock down the flames. The Ashland Fire Department received mutual aid from crews in Portage, Masardis and Mapleton.
A cause for the blaze was not immediately known. An investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was on the scene Wednesday.
“The employees and the people in our community have been quite upset,” Town Manager Jim Gardner said Wednesday morning. “It was quite a shock.”
Owned by Matthew Bell, the pellet manufacturing facility has been located in Ashland since 2006, according to the manager.
Gardner said that Bell, who did not want to speak to the media, planned to rebuild the facility.
He added that Bell had successfully increased production at the plant to more than 10 times what it was when he first launched the business.
“We as a community are going to do whatever we can to help him,” he said, adding that the town would seek state and federal assistance to get the facility up and running again.
He said news of the fire was especially hard for the town to take on the heels of the recent layoffs at Fraser Paper.
The company earlier this year shut down its mills in Ashland and Masardis.
“It has been hard,” Gardner said of the economic downturn, “but we are going to keep our chins up and work together to get back” to work.