Fire destroys East Millinocket concrete factory

Firefighters and workers at Lee's Redi Mix Concrete Inc. off Route 11 in East Millinocket worked with a backhoe to peel apart sections of a garage heavily damaged by fire on Friday, March 16, 2012.
Firefighters and workers at Lee's Redi Mix Concrete Inc. off Route 11 in East Millinocket worked with a backhoe to peel apart sections of a garage heavily damaged by fire on Friday, March 16, 2012.
Posted March 16, 2012, at 12:54 p.m.
Last modified March 16, 2012, at 9:18 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A wood stove or recent electrical work might have ignited a fire that destroyed a concrete factory and connected office on Friday, firefighters said. No injuries were reported.

The first firefighters to arrive at Lee’s Redi Mix Concrete Inc. off Route 11 seven minutes after the 10:30 a.m. alarm knew immediately that an interior attack on the fire was out of the question, East Millinocket Fire Chief Les Brown said.

Flames were already burning through the roof and one side of the building, which was filled with thick smoke likely caused by the ignition of portions of a 120-foot-long rubber belt that ran concrete through mixing and preparation machinery, Brown said. Several large plastic drums inside the plant were also afire.

“There was just no way,” Brown said Friday. “It was so black inside that we had to fight everything from the outside.”

Plant workers and firefighters from East Millinocket and Medway used a backhoe to pry open parts of the building in an attempt to save tools and valuable items within it, including a large generator, office records and machinery, Brown said.

Two large tanks that held chemicals used to make concrete appear to have been salvaged, Brown said.

East Millinocket firefighters almost immediately radioed Medway for help when they arrived. A tanker truck from the Great Northern Paper Co. mill brought water to the scene, and Mattawamkeag firefighters covered Medway.

The steady rainfall and cold that firefighters endured throughout most of the day helped keep workers and firefighters from overheating, Brown said.

The last firefighters left the scene at about 5 p.m.

Plant workers had a wood stove going the night before that might have set off the blaze, but electrical work recently finished might also have caused it, Brown said.

Inspector Stu Jacobs of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office will try to determine what caused the fire, Brown said.

According to town tax records, the business is owned by Emery Lee and Sons Inc., a construction company in Millinocket. A Lee family member at the scene declined to comment on the fire.

The fire was the second East Millinocket firefighters handled on Friday. A minor fire in the recycling room at the GNP mill on Main Street reported late in the afternoon took about an hour to clear, Brown said.

“The guys all handled it good. They are sitting here drinking Mountain Dew and eating pizza right now,” Brown said.

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