Pellet Mill Burns Down 

Little is left of a pellet mill in the Northern Maine town of Ashland after a late night fire broke out and quickly engulfed the entire structure.The first call came in at about 12:15am Tuesday from the workers on the late shift, the second from the power plant next door. Explosions sounded and flames lit up the sky as firefighters rushed to respond. “By the time they got to the firehouse the whole sky was lit up, they had seen from their houses and when they were coming in, which was within the first three to four minutes.” Said Ned LaBelle, Ashland’s Fire Chief. “There were a couple of explosions. There were a lot of acetylene torches, oxygen tanks, propane tanks..those had gone off and of course the transformers, their MC room, with all the electricity…that went off.”Mutual aid responded from Masardis, Portage, and Mapleton and once here on the scene the fire departments battled the blaze for almost ten hours. But the mill is a total loss, leaving another twelve people unemployed and even further compounding Ashland’s economic struggle. “Having another part of that, if you will, in being Fraser down too, it’s a crunch to us.” Said Ashland Town Manager Jim Gardner. “One good thing we did here back when Fraser first started talking was we built a transition team and that transition team has been very successful.”Northeast Pellets, started up by Matthew Bell in 2006, was just reaching it’s peak as production was up ten times what it was three years ago. But Gardner says these charred remains aren’t the end of the story. “This is where we get involved as a town. Right now we look at USDA money, we look at CDBG money, we look at different monies that can be infused from the state and the feds to help him rebuild.” “We’re all hoping that Matt’s going to rebuild and he’s hoping to too.”The exact cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but the mill was insured.