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Sparks from welder cause second fire in four weeks at Newport Industrial Fabrication

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Workers with Newport Industrial Fabrication, Inc. waited outside the plant as firefighters inside doused a fire that spread inside a wall Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. The fire was extinquished in several minutes. No one was injured and the damage was minimal.
By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

NEWPORT, Maine — A fire inside a wall at Newport Industrial Fabrication Inc. on Friday was in the same location as a fire on July 25 that injured three employees.

Unlike the earlier fire, no one was injured in Friday’s fire, which erupted inside a wall, according to Newport Fire Chief Jeff Chretien. He said firefighters received a call at 11 a.m. and arrived quickly to find one of the back corners of the main building on fire. He said the fire was in the “identical” place as the July 25 fire.

“It just ruined that one corner of that wall that they hadn’t even had completely rebuilt yet,” Chretien said. “We had to remove the exterior portion of the wall and the interior.”

Chretien said the fire appears to have started from sparks from a grinder or welder that employees were using.

The business’s owner, Dan Gerry, concurred. Gerry said his employees are working on four large projects: a 720-foot-long pedestrian bridge slated for Boston; two other large bridges, one of which is for the Ocean Gateway Project in Portland; and a large crane for General Dynamics. The business, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days week, employs about 50 people, he said.

Gerry said the two recent fires, the only fires the business has ever had, were in the oldest part of the building, where the insulation has a paper backing protected by a liner panel. “We believe sparks in both cases got behind that liner panel,” he said. The fire was in a small area of the 30,000-square-foot building, he added.

Two employees and Gerry were injured in the fire last month. Gerry and another employee suffered minor injuries, but a third employee, Vance Nash, suffered significant injuries and was flown to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. He is now recovering, Gerry said.

Assisting Newport firefighters at the scene and on standby during Friday’s fire were Corinna, Pittsfield, Dexter, Etna and Plymouth firefighters.

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