Officials probe fire at Old Town lumberyard

Posted May 12, 2010, at 8:49 p.m.

OLD TOWN, Maine — State inspectors have not yet officially confirmed the cause of a fire Tuesday morning that destroyed the milling operation at Stillwater Lumber on Bennoch Road, but all signs point to a problem with a generator, according to Old Town Fire Department Deputy Chief Stephen O’Malley.

“We’re just waiting for the state electrical inspector to confirm what we pretty much are sure of already — something electrical or mechanical related to the generator,” O’Malley said Wednesday afternoon. The state fire marshal was on hand Tuesday morning as crews battled the blaze, and the electrical inspector is expected today.

The generator is located at the rear of the sawmill building and is believed to have sparked the fire that drew fire crews from Old Town, Orono, Bangor and several other surrounding towns. Thick black smoke billowed from the scene as a diesel tank connected to the generator burned.

The fire was reported shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday and was extinguished by 11 a.m., although a crew stayed at the site through the afternoon to watch for reigniting hot spots. Bennoch Road was closed for several hours while firefighters brought the fire under control.

Tom Bernard, son of Stillwater Lumber owner Louis “Pete” Bernard, said Tuesday that the mill building and the equipment it houses are a total loss. The company is waiting for the investigation to be complete, “and then we’ll tear it down and rebuild,” Bernard said.

The rebuilding project could last through the summer, Bernard said, but retail sales of lumber, hardware and building supplies will continue while the sawmill is replaced.