May 30, 2024

Oxford County fire a 2-night battle

PARIS – Firefighters were spending another night at a paper and pulp warehouse controlling a stubborn fire that caused millions of dollars in damages while shutting down roads, closing schools and exhausting firefighters.

The fire was reported at about 1 p.m. Wednesday at the NEPW Logistics Inc. warehouse not far off Route 26. More than 175 firefighters from more than 40 fire departments were called to help douse the fire, which was still burning Thursday.

Firefighters used hoses from aerial platforms to put out flames that erupted from the roof, but were unable to get inside the warehouse until Thursday afternoon.

Scott Parker, director of the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency, said whenever firefighters opened doors to the facility to go in, winds from the outside would fan the flames inside, making it impossible to enter.

He said crews would spend Thursday night at the site containing hot spots and flare-ups and continue their efforts on Friday.

“This is going to make the history books, at least in Oxford County,” he said.

The building serves as the headquarters and a storage depot for NEPW Logistics, which has six warehouses in Maine for materials moving by train and truck through New England and eastern Canada. According to the company’s Web site, the warehouse in Paris is 233,000 square feet.

Drew Gilmore, president of NEPW, estimated that the building contained about 20,000 tons of paper pulp, worth an estimated $10 million, that came from Canada on its way to Maine mills.

The fire forced the closure of Route 26 from the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School into downtown on Wednesday afternoon, causing a traffic nightmare for motorists. On Thursday, school was canceled at Oxford Hills Middle School and Oxford Hills Christian Academy because of the fire.

When firefighters encountered water pressure problems, crews ran lines from the Little Androscoggin River to bring in additional water.

There were no reported injuries, but reinforcement firefighters arrived Thursday to give relief to others who had been on the scene all night.

Investigators with the state fire marshal’s office set up a command post, but were unable to get inside the building until the fire was out. Workers said they saw the fire start when a spark hit a stack of shredded paper under a dock where welders were making repairs.

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