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Fire seriously damages Maine potato factory

Penobscot McCrum employs about 175 people. Officials believe the fire was started by one of the facility's large fryolator machines.

BELFAST, Maine — Fire crews from several towns have been battling a fire at the Penobscot McCrum potato processing plant in Belfast. Crews were called to the scene at 28 Pierce Street around 3:30 a.m., according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss.

As of 2 p.m., local officials were still fighting the fire and were having difficulty due to metal siding and roofing on the building, Moss said.

Officials believe the fire was started by one of the facility's large fryolator machines, Moss said.

About eight employees were working at the facility at the time. No serious injuries were reported, according to officials.

Belfast Area High School was closed Thursday because smoke was blowing in the direction of the school, according to school officials.

Waldo County Emergency Management Agency had recommended people within a quarter-mile of the facility shelter in place. However, they lifted that recommendation at 10:30 a.m.

No ammonia or other chemical release has been reported, police said.

Investigators with the Office of the State Fire Marshal interviewed staff on Thursday and are expected to return Friday to process the scene, according to Moss.

The potato processing facility is located on one side of the Passagassawakeag River. Police rerouted traffic on the Route 1 bridge over the river, but the bridge reopened around 9 a.m., Belfast Police Department Deputy Chief Dean Jackson wrote in a Facebook post.

Police said mutual aid was provided by crews from Belmont, Camden, Northport, Morrill, Liberty, Lincolnville, Searsmont, Searsport, and West Frankfort.

Penobscot McCrum employs about 175 people, according to finance company Dun & Bradstreet. It was founded in 1886 and is a family business dedicated to providing specialty frozen potato products to an array of businesses.

A fire broke out at at the McCrum campus on May 9, 2019. According to a NEWS CENTER Maine report at the time, three fire units responded to the fire. Witnesses reported that the building on fire was the factory's administrative office. 

This story will be updated.

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