Fryeburg wood products mill burns

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — A fire that destroyed the main building of the former Saunders Brothers wood products mill on Fair Street here last week brought over 70

AN AERIAL LADDER TRUCK WAS USED TO ATTACK — the fire that destroyed the main building at the former Saunders Brothers wood products mill on Fair Street Dec. 30. (Ackley Photo)

firefighters from nine towns together to battle the blaze that could be seen for miles around.

The cause of the fire is likely accidental and there were no injuries, according to Fryeburg Fire Chief Richard “Ozzie” Sheaff. Four investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office were dispatched to the scene last week to investigate the origin of the fire, said Sheaff.

“It is believed to have been accidental, caused by the workers using tools inside,” Fire Chief Sheaff told The Bridgton News.

It took two and one-half hours to bring the massive fire under control at the now closed Forest Industries property that was purchased by Louise Jonaitis of Hanover, who also owns the former Moosehead Manufacturing Company in Monson, at auction in May of 2009 for $200,000. Items inside the building were sold at auction two weeks ago, and workers were believed to be dismantling some equipment that remained there, when the fire broke out. Forest Industries closed up shop, in 2008.

Sheaff said his department was toned out just before noon on Thursday, Dec. 30 and stayed at the scene for over six hours, initially. The fire was brought under control by 2:30 p.m., said Sheaff.

Firefighting personnel from Fryeburg, Bridgton, Brownfield, Denmark, Lovell, Saco Valley and Sebago in Maine and Center Conway and East Conway in New Hampshire fought the fire, he said. They returned, when the fire rekindled and they remained there until 10:30 p.m., according to the fire chief.

“Upon our arrival, about half of the main building was already fully engulfed in flames, and it didn’t take long for the fire to go through the rest of it,” Chief Sheaff said. “The fire traveled down through the duct work, and the whole building was all full of smoke.”

“Only the main building was destroyed,” Sheaff said. “We went around to the L-shaped part of the building and stopped it before it got to any other structures.” The fire chief said there are a total of six buildings on the property.

Power lines a problem

Asked if there were any difficulties fighting the blaze last week, Chief Sheaff said, “What hindered us a lot were the power lines that travel across in front of the of the main building — they caught fire, as did a pole on the corner, and I had Central Maine Power dump the grid so we could work the fire. The whole downtown area was without power, for awhile.”

Bridgton’s ladder truck was used to fight the massive blaze from above, according to Sheaff, and backup water was shuttled to the scene from nearby Ward’s Brook.

Sheaff said one person told him they could see the smoke from a bridge in Hiram.

Since the fire, Jonaitis has announced plans to open a furniture-manufacturing facility at the same location.

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