October 23, 2019
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Firefighters battle blaze at drumstick factory in Newport

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Nylon-tipped drumsticks are kept in a container until the next stop of processing at the Vic Firth drumstick facility in Newport in this October 2008 file photo.

NEWPORT, Maine — A metal stairwell support saved several thousand drumsticks from getting anything more than sprinkler damage from a fire on Sunday at the Vic Firth Co., firefighters said.

No injuries were reported.

The fire apparently started under a first-floor stairwell at the manufacturing facility, which is at 11 High St. The flames burned an area about 4 feet wide before hitting the support and firefighters doused it, said Assistant Chief Rick Turner of the Newport Fire and Rescue Department. About 60 firefighters from five area fire departments assisted, he said.

“Where this fire was, the wall was all aluminum, so the fire couldn’t extend,” Turner said Sunday.

The fire could have been much worse “if it wasn’t for the metal,” Turner added. “That is in a wide-open area that would have acted like a chimney, and [the fire would have] sucked everything right up, and we would still be there.”

A night watchman at the manufacturing plant, which employs about 200 people, spotted smoke, traced it to its source in a first-floor hallway and called 911 about 8:48 a.m., according to Turner. The alarm and sprinkler systems also went off.

When firefighters arrived, they saw smoke pouring from the Lake Sebasticook side of the 80-by-100 foot building and immediately began calling for help, Turner said. Fire crews ran a hose 400 feet to hook to a hydrant. Then firefighters Corey Peete and Ryan Peters took a line of hose to the blaze’s source and doused it, Turner said.

Several hundred crates of what appeared to be finished drumsticks were nearby, Turner said.

The Vic Firth Co. advertises itself as the world’s leading manufacturer of drumsticks and mallets. It produces about 85,000 sticks per day at the plant, according to vicfirth.com. Vic Firth achieved international recognition as principal timpanist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and began the company in 1963.

The company sold its Vic Firth Gourmet division to Maine Wood Concepts in 2012. The facility also was once used for the manufacture of wooden men’s cologne bottle corks and bowling pins, Turner said.

Firefighters from Dexter, Corinna and Pittsfield assisted Newport at the scene. Etna firefighters manned Newport’s station during the emergency, Turner said.

Turner called the state fire marshal’s office to investigate, he said.

“It was kind of in a location that I guess you could call it suspicious, but I talked to the plant manager, who said that’s where they store stuff,” Turner said, adding that the area also had some electrical outlets. “What didn’t make sense was how it started.”

 



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