Two-story electrical fire hits Verso paper mill in Bucksport

The Verso mill in Bucksport.
The Verso mill in Bucksport. Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 07, 2012, at 2:27 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 07, 2012, at 3:30 p.m.

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BUCKSPORT, Maine — A two-story electrical fire at one of Verso Paper Corp.’s pulp machines in Bucksport was extinguished Thursday night by local firefighters and the company’s emergency crew.

A Verso worker reported the fire around 8:15 p.m. after seeing smoke at the mill’s Thermo-Mechanical Pulp plant. The blaze apparently began at a cable tray, where power, computer and other wires collect together, according to Verso spokesman Bill Cohen.

There was a lot of thick smoke, and open flames, but no one was hurt, Cohen said. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

Bucksport Fire Chief Craig Bowden said that when his fire crew arrived, a corrugated metal wall near the cable tray was burning, and the fire had spread over two stories and multiple levels of machinery.

“We focused on the actual structural part that was burning,” Bowden said. “They have electricians on duty who came in and shut down power in certain areas so we could get in.”

The fire was extinguished within about 15 minutes, Bowden said, but crews from Bucksport, Orrington, Orland and Verso’s Plant Emergency Group worked for another hour to extinguish stray wood chips and dust.

“We started at the top and washed it down because all those chips were still smoldering,” he said. “We went from the top, then down a level and so on until we were at the drains.”

Cohen said the mill continued operations throughout the episode, but that the Thermo-Mechanical Pulp machine is still shut down for repairs. He said the company had no estimates about when it will be running again, or what financial losses Verso would incur through reparations and machine downtime.

“They’re in the process of getting it back up and running, but I don’t have a timeline for you,” he said.

A Bucksport fire crew also responded to a report of smoke at Verso around 11:15 Friday morning, Bowden said. By the time they arrived, Verso workers had discovered the smoke originated at a distressed mechanical belt at Tower 7, a woodyard conveyor. Verso’s crew had taken care of the issue, and there was no fire.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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