On the one-year anniversary of devastating fire, McCrum family announce they will not rebuild Belfast plant

Sat, 03/25/2023 - 9:45pm

    Many remember the devastating early spring fire that left the Belfast potato processing plant, Penobscot McCrum, a complete loss. Until the official announcement, it remained unclear whether or not the plant would be rebuilt. 

    A social media post from the McCrum family made Friday, March 24, revealed the decision to the community. 

    In a message, Penobscot McCrum Human Resources Manager Dayna McCrum wrote:

    “When I think back to March 24, 2022, there are plenty of reasons that I could look at the darkness and fear that we all had that day, but now a year later I feel like there were so many positives that came out of that day. 

    “The day started with a phone call of a small fire, totally manageable but we would be closed for the day. When I arrived at the plant around 4 a.m. a small fire was not what I saw. The fire that started small, quickly spread throughout our entire building and soon it was completely engulfed in flames. 

    “We quickly worked as a family and as a team to try and provide all the resources that we could to our employees. Working with employees on their resumes and helping them try and find new jobs that they could succeed at. We worked closely with the Belfast City officials and donors in the area to make sure our employees could be cared for financially for a short amount of time. Together we were able to help those who had given their heart and soul to our company for years. 

    “After the first month of speaking with employees and trying to find a way out of the rubble, the dust finally began to settle. I always thought of Belfast as a second family and it has been hard for me to not take a morning and evening walk through the plant and see everyone. Your stories and families filled me with such joy and every time I return to Belfast I hope to bump into you and see how you are doing.

    “We are so fortunate to have our facility in Washburn that was able to continue manufacturing during this time to give us a minute to figure out what we were going to do. We often times spoke in meetings and to the press that we didn’t want to make a decision quickly as to what we were going to do next as we needed some time, but at this point we have a way forward. At this time, we have decided to expand our manufacturing in Washburn and make a significant investment in that facility. This investment will allow us to continue to work closely with growers and suppliers in Aroostook County whom we are already working with at our facility.

    “We know that choosing to not rebuild in Belfast will have an impact but we feel continuing to invest in Washburn and in Aroostook County is a great opportunity for us. We pray that our comeback will be greater than our setback and that we will forever hold the memories and people that we met in Belfast with us as we continue on with our story.”

    The inferno required multiple fire departments, including units out of Belfast, Belmont, Camden, Northport, Morrill, Liberty, Lincolnville, Searsmont, Searsport, and West Frankfort among others. 

    At the time of the fire, there were 138 employees at the processing plant. 

    Prior to the processing plant burning down, the Belfast Penobscot McCrum offices burned to the ground in a May 2019 fire.