AUGUSTA, Maine — The State Fire Marshal’s Office has charged a paid on-call firefighter with the Presque Isle Fire Department with arson in connection with a fire over the weekend that destroyed Northeast Packaging Co. in Presque Isle. The accused is also an employee of Northeast Packaging.
Timothy MacFarline, 25, of Easton, was arrested Sunday after a joint investigation by the Presque Isle Fire Department, Presque Isle Police Department, an evidence recovery technician from the Maine State Police, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The fire that started at about 10 p.m. last Friday destroyed the 150-foot-by-300-foot metal structure on Rice Street and its contents, according to the fire marshal’s office. Firefighters from six communities were on the scene for more than 13 hours. Northeast Packaging Co warehoused paper and plastic and barrels of ink and alcohol solvent.
Senior Investigator Tim Lowell of the State Fire Marshal’s Office made the arrest after a review of evidence from the scene and witnesses statements. He said Monday afternoon that security cameras at a nearby business and assistance from Seacoast Security officials helped in the investigation.
MacFarline was taken to the Presque Isle Police Department for booking on Sunday and was later taken to the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton. He was released Monday after posting $5,000 cash bail. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Jan. 21 in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou.
Presque Isle Fire Chief Darrell White said, “The department conducts background and reference checks as standard procedure on all potential call firefighters before they are hired. There were no indications of any concerns in hiring him as a call firefighter. After his arrest, he was suspended from the department pending further investigation.”
White said this type of act always causes other firefighters a range of emotions from surprise to disbelief and anger.
Lowell said it always gives fire departments a black eye.
Lowell attributed the success of the arson investigation to the cooperative efforts of all agencies involved, but he is not releasing details while the investigation continues.
Presque Isle Deputy Fire Chief Rich Wark said this weekend that the fire was difficult to fight in that it “had a very large fire load.”
Wark said when firefighters arrived, flames were visible throughout the rear of the building and were starting to chew through the roof.
“We were definitely in defense mode,” Wark said. Firefighters were forced to fight the flames from outside. Key to the attack was the department’s ladder gun with an elevated stream, he said.
“The barrels with the alcohol were what concerned us the most,” Wark said. By venting the roof and concentrating on those barrels, Wark said the fire was kept away from them.
The warehouse was destroyed.
Firefighters were still on the scene at noon Saturday, using an excavator to remove rolls of paper that were on fire. “The metal roof collapsed on top of the rolls, and the excavator is pulling them apart so we can extinguish them,” Wark said.
Two investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Tim York and Tim Lowell, were at the scene Saturday, attempting to determine the fire’s cause.
Wark said at least 50 firefighters from Caribou, Mapleton, Mars Hill, Presque Isle, and the Aroostook Fire Protection District (Fort Fairfield and Limestone) fought the blaze. There were no injuries.