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Massive blaze engulfs potato processing plant in Belfast, Maine

Smoke billows from the Penobscot McCrum plant in Belfast, Maine.Camden, Maine Fire

A fire raced through a potato processing plant in Belfast, Maine, early Thursday morning, causing heavy damage to the structure, officials said. No injuries were reported.

Fire officials were called to the Penobscot McCrum plant at 28 Pierce St. at around 2:30 a.m. for a report of a structure fire, said Erin Herbig, the city manager in Belfast. No injuries were reported, and no ammonia or other chemicals have been released, she said.

Belfast fire received mutual aid from several towns in Maine, including Belmont, Camden, Northport, Morrill, Liberty, Lincolnville, Searsmont, Searsport, and West Frankfort.

Belfast is a coastal community on Penobscot Bay about 35 miles south of Bangor.


There were approximately eight employees inside the building at the time of the fire, said Shannon Moss, the public information officer for the Maine Department of Safety. All evacuated safely.

About 138 people work at the plant, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Herbig, who was on the fire scene, said the building “is considered a total loss.”

Smoke from the fire was so heavy that Belfast Area High School, which is within a half-mile of the facility, was evacuated, and students sent home, Herbig said. The nearby Route 1 bridge was closed temporarily but reopened at around 9:15 a.m., she said.

A shelter-in-place order by the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency for residents that live within a quarter of a mile of the plant was lifted as of 10:05 a.m., Herbig said.

Penobscot McCrum plants, grows, and processes Maine potatoes to be sold as frozen products, according to the company’s website. “This family enterprise is five generations strong with a singular focus of providing the finest frozen potato specialty products on the market today,” the description said. The McCrum family has been operating a potato farm in northern Maine since 1886.


Penobscot McCrum officials declined a request for comment on the fire Thursday morning.

Maine Governor Janet Mills said on Twitter Thursday morning that she has directed the Maine Emergency Management Agency “to remain in close contact with local and county officials and to provide support as needed.”

“I am grateful that no one has been hurt and urge people in the area to follow the advice of local authorities to stay safe,” she said on Twitter.

Moss said the fire was likely started by “one of the large fryolator machines.”

As of 1:50 p.m., Moss said, fire crews were still fighting the fire and “are having difficulty due to the metal siding/roofing.”

The Maine state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the fire, officials said. Moss said investigators interviewed staff today and are slated to return to process the scene Friday.

Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @matt_yan12.