EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Several fire departments were battling a fire at the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill site on Monday near ongoing and controversial demolition work, officials and witnesses said.
The fire was reported at 6:30 p.m. Firefighters began leaving the site at 9:30 p.m., witnesses and a Penobscot Regional Communications Center dispatcher said. East Millinocket, Lincoln, Medway and Millinocket were there.
Witness James Willis, a former South Portland and Medway volunteer firefighter, said that the fire seemed to be at or near the large paper mill building and debris pile where workers for property owner North American Recovery Management of Boca Raton, Florida, were doing demolition work.
“I am looking at Lincoln’s ladder truck now and they are having a hard time reaching over [the pile] to get to the fire,” the 41-year-old Millinocket resident said. “It looks like the smoke is getting a little less so they must be making some headway.”
North American Chief Financial Officer Jason Inoff answered an email late Monday by writing, “Still gathering details but [the fire] was minor and handled by our on-site team.”
The site work became controversial when a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order preventing the razing of at least seven site buildings that would be “an important part” of a developer’s $240 million plan to make biofuels and other materials there.
Released on Feb. 28, the order does permit the razing of four buildings that North American got state permits to demolish on Feb. 1. Those buildings are the two two-story paper machine buildings plus two smaller buildings identified in the permit. It protects seven others.
A company called EMEP sought the injunction alleging that North American repeatedly delayed closing on a $1.75 million purchase and sale agreement and committed breach of contract by violating the Letter of Intent.
EMEP and North American were in talks as of two weeks ago.