Firefighters quickly stop blaze at Lincoln paper mill

Posted Jan. 17, 2010, at 8:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:06 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Firefighters quickly stopped a fire that damaged sawdust processing machinery early Saturday at Lincoln Paper and Tissue Co. LLC. No one was injured, firefighters said.

When firefighters arrived at the mill at 50 Katahdin Ave., at 4:10 a.m., they saw flames through the second-story window of the M&D digester, an inclined pressure vessel with a multilevel conveyor that helps turn sawdust and wood shavings into white bleached pulp critical to tissue- and papermaking.

They immediately called for help. Howland, Lee and Mattawamkeag firefighters responded, but Lincoln had the fire under control by about 4:45 a.m., firefighters said.

“They did a good job being aggressive with it,” Fire Chief Phil Dawson said Saturday. “They took care of it and were able to knock it down in relatively short order. The initial unit thought they had quite a bit more [fire] to contend with, but before everybody else arrived, we had gained control.”

The fire appeared to start with an electrical problem that ignited grease, sawdust and flammable chemicals near the digester, Dawson said.

The damage was minor enough so that it caused only a three-hour shutdown of the digester, mill co-owner Keith Van Scotter said. All other operations continued.

“It was a little fire,” Van Scotter said. “It did minimal damage.”

The fire burned up into a floor over the digester before firefighters doused it.

Twenty-three firefighters fought the blaze. Howland and Lee firefighters assisted at the scene, while Mattawamkeag responders stood by at the Lincoln station, firefighters said.