June 24, 2018
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Investigator: Human element involved in Fryeburg mill fire

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

FRYEBURG, Maine — The State Fire Marshal’s Office said there was a human element behind the fire that destroyed a wood-products manufacturing facility in Fryeburg last week.

The main production area of the Forest Industries Mill, formerly owned by Saunders Bros., was destroyed by fire.

Sgt. Joel Davis, an investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said Wednesday his office has not classified the fire as arson. “Until we have the [District Attorney’s Office] review the case, we’re going to just leave it at that right now,” he said.

Davis said the fire still is under investigation.

“We’re trying to determine if the person that was in there [before the fire] had the legal authority to be there,” he said. His office has the names of everyone who was in the building that day, and some of them had been moving out equipment that had been auctioned in recent weeks, according to the investigator.

Louise Jonaitis of Portland had purchased the Forest Industries Mill at auction last spring and had auctioned off the mill’s contents.

Jonaitis also was the highest bidder for the former Moosehead Manufacturing Co. plant in Monson earlier this year. When she learned there were some environmental problems with the property, Jonaitis negotiated with Machias Savings Bank, the mortgage holder, and purchased just the brand name and the mill’s contents. Jonaitis moved out the finished furniture and some of the equipment and then sold the rest last month at auction.

Jonaitis, who opened a Moosehead furniture outlet store in Monson’s Community Center, has said she would like to open a small manufacturing facility in the community to continue to produce some of the Moosehead brand furniture.

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