June 24, 2018
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Blaze damages Old Town lumberyard

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff

OLD TOWN, Maine — Area fire crews turned out in force Tuesday morning to battle a blaze at Stillwater Lumber. The fire, reported shortly before 7 a.m., appears to have started near a generator in the rear of a building that houses the lumber mill operation, according to Tom Bernard, son of business owner Louis “Pete” Bernard.

No injuries were reported and no inventory was burned, but the steel mill building and the equipment it houses had extensive damage. The milling operation is central to the business of the yard, which processes boards, planks and other lumber from spruce, pine and hemlock logs.

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“That’s where it all starts,” Tom Bernard said of the milling operation as he watched firefighters hose down the smoldering mill building.

Crews and equipment from Old Town, Orono, Hudson, Bradley, Milford, Alton, Veazie, LaGrange, Bangor and the University of Maine went to the fire.

Deputy Chief Steven O’Malley of the Old Town Fire Department said he was grateful for the “tremendous response” from surrounding communities. Crews working together were able to keep the fire from spreading beyond the mill building to other structures or to the piles of logs and lumber at the yard, O’Malley said.

Dense, black smoke billowing from the scene was generated primarily by the burning of a diesel fuel tank for the generator. The tank eventually was doused with chemical foam, O’Malley said. Runoff from the fire was prevented from reaching a nearby stream by dense sawdust dikes placed by lumberyard employees.

Lengths of fire hose snaked more than 1,500 feet to the scene from the nearest fire hydrant on Bennoch Road, while tankers provided additional water supplies to firefighters. O’Malley said firefighters had all the water they needed to bring the fire under control and extinguish it.

In addition to processing and selling lumber, Stillwater Lumber also includes an on-site building supply store, which was not damaged in Tuesday’s fire. Bernard emphasized that the lumberyard and the building supply store remain open for retail business, including local sales and delivery and shipping to destinations statewide and beyond.

A total of about 17 people are employed at Stillwater Lumber, which has been in business since 1987.

Employees who have been working in the milling operation likely will be reassigned to other positions until the mill is rebuilt, Bernard said.

A fire in 2004 destroyed the planer building at the lumberyard, which was later rebuilt.

Bennoch Road was shut down Tuesday until about 11 a.m. A fire crew from Old Town remained on the scene Tuesday afternoon to watch for and extinguish any “hot spots.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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