Mill fire causes little damage

Posted March 09, 2010, at 9:10 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:04 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A spark from a wire holding together a bale of recycled newsprint might have started a fire that destroyed as many as 35 bales at the Katahdin Paper Co. LLC mill this weekend, firefighters said Tuesday.

About 16 local and Medway volunteer firefighters spent about 2½ hours fighting the fire, which was reported at about 11:15 p.m. Saturday, fire Capt. Peter Larlee said. No one was injured, and the mill’s operations were not compromised.

“It wasn’t anywhere near as bad a fire as last time,” Larlee said Tuesday. “There weren’t as many bales stacked in that area. They were a little more isolated than the other stuff. And the mill crew did a really good job of hitting it [the fire] right off the bat. That helped us out a lot.”

The last such fire reported at the mill, on Dec. 16, occurred in the same place as Saturday’s, but damaged or destroyed as many as 300 bales of newsprint. Each stack of bales in the December fire was about 4 feet high by 10 feet long, and they were piled together in a mound up to 25 feet tall in a 100-by-100-foot area at the cen-ter of the mill’s football field-size recycling warehouse, firefighters said.

As on Dec. 16, firefighters doused bales and hauled them outside the warehouse to keep the fire isolated. Firefighters also benefited from much warmer conditions than on Dec. 16, when temperatures were well below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It was warmer and in an easier area to get at. It was just easier all the way around,” said Larlee, the commanding officer on the scene on Saturday.

Firefighters cleared the mill at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday, Larlee said.

Managed by Fraser Papers and owned by parent company Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto, the Main Street mill employs as many as 491 hourly workers making directory-grade papers and newsprint.

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