UPDATE: Cause of massive Belfast waterfront fire attributed to potato fryer

Fri, 03/25/2022 - 11:15am

    BELFAST — The Belfast Rail Trail will remain closed to the public through the weekend as crews continue to respond to the Penobscot McCrum fire, officials announced late Friday morning. 

    Smoke is expected to persist through the weekend as well, and crews continue to monitor the scene.

    Officials thank the public for your patience, attention, and support in this matter.

    Emergency crews, including the Maine Environmental Protection Agency, remain on the scene at the Penobscot McCrum facility as of 7 p.m. on Thursday night. 

    The Belfast Rail Trail will remain closed to the public as crews continue to respond. This is expected to last through Thursday evening and into Friday.

    On Thursday, March 24, 2022, at approximately 3:29 a.m. the Fire Marshal’s Office was called to a large commercial fire at the Penobscot McCrum potato processing plant at 28 Pierce St. in Belfast. The building was in operation at the time with approximately eight employees on staff.

    The staff was able to evacuate the building and there were no injuries.

    “At this time it is believed the fire was started by one of the large fryolator machines,” according to the Maine Office of Public Safety. “Local fire crews are still fighting the fire and are having difficulty due to the metal siding/roofing. Investigators with the Fire Marshal’s Office have been interviewing staff today and are expected to return tomorrow to process the scene.”

    A news release from the City of Belfast said that as of 10 a.m. on Thursday, there have been no casualties or serious injuries reported at this time. No ammonia or other chemical release has been reported at this time, as well.

    At approximately 2:30 a.m., Fire Chief Patrick Richards and the Belfast Fire and Ambulance Department responded to a structure fire at the Penobscot McCrum facility on the Belfast waterfront. Mutual aid has been provided by Belmont, Camden, Northport, Morrill, Liberty, Lincolnville, Searsmont, Searsport, and West Frankfort among others.

    Waldo County Emergency Management Agency had temporarily advised that Belfast residents within a ¼ mile of Penobscot McCrum shelter in place but that has since been lifted.

    The Route 1 Bridge had been closed temporarily but has now reopened. The city will continue to keep the public updated as information becomes available.

    A fire at Penobscot McCrum, a potato processing product plant on the Belfast waterfront, broke out just before 2 a.m., sending flames into the sky. The extent of the fire was severe enough that Belfast Fire Department called for mutual aid from area fire departments.

    In addition to Belfast, responding towns included Belmont, Montville, Searsport, Morrill, Lincolnville, Camden, Liberty, Northport, and Searsmont. 

    Camden was called for help with its ladder truck, and six firefighters from that department dispatched to Belfast. The Washington Fire Department was asked to stand by for coverage, if needed.

    The Penobscot McCrum grows potatoes in Washburn, in Aroostook County, and processes them into french fries, potato cakes and other products in Belfast.

    Concerns about propane and ammonia have kept firefighters on alert throughout the predawn hours.

    The Facebook Waldo County Scanner Page has been posting photos from the fire submitted by individuals throughout the night.

    While Penobscot McCrum employees were reportedly inside the building when the fire broke out, they evacuated the facility.

    Waldo County EMA advises Belfast residents shelter in place until otherwise notified. 

    Actions to take during a shelter in place: 

    1. Go or stay indoors

    2. Close doors and windows

    3. Turn off devices that exchanges air with the outdoors (furnace, exhaust, fans, air conditioners, vents, dampers, clothes dryers, etc.) 

    4. Stay in an interior room with as few windows and doors

    5. Try to account for all members of your home or business

    6. If possible, place a wet towel at the bottom of the door to your safe room

    7. Listen to radio, TV or an online device for further instructions

    8. Perform first aid as necessary 

    Actions not to take during a shelter in place:

    1. Do not call 911 for information; only if you have an actual emergency

    2. Do not evacuate or travel, unless told to by authorities

    3. Do not go get children at school. If the school is in the hazard zone, they will be sheltering also. 

    4. Do not make telephone calls, this may tie up the phone lines.