Baileyville Fulghum Fibres Mill Building Catches Fire

By Gwen Clark

Baileyville Fire Department was called out to Fulghum Fibres Inc. at approximately 1:46 PM on Tuesday afternoon, February 4th.   A fire was reported  by the workers in a metal building  in the wood chipping section of the Baileyville Mill property. The building itself houses the businesses’ welding shop and debarking and chipping machinery.  Earlier that day, employees were  performing  routine maintenance  inside the building  using torches to cut or weld metal  when some  sparks ignited insulation material behind a wall.  It had been spotted by the workers and was assumed to be put out.  A crane operator outside the building  saw a puff of smoke come out of the building about ten minutes later.  Workers discovered the fire within the walls of the building after they had returned from lunch break.  There were no built in sprinkler systems.  The fire traveled the length of the 300 foot long and 75 feet wide building in about ten minutes.  It had climbed to the top of the building at a rapid pace. Close to 40 firefighters responded to the scene  with personnel from Baileyville, Calais, Princeton, Alexander, and St Stephen New Brunswick, Canada. 

According to Fire Chief John McPhee: “The fire caused extensive damage.  All the walls are gone.  Although there was structural damage  to some of the main beams, the building itself is still intact  and pretty much sound.  Hydraulic  lines, air lines and electrical components are all gone.”  

Although some of the machinery is salvageable other equipment was destroyed.  The chipper itself is possible for operations.  A  rough estimate to the facility that sustained considerable damage  is close to $1 million.  All workers were able to exit the facility and  there were no reported injuries to either  workers or firefighters. 

Firefighters were on hand throughout the night and got control of the fire at approximately 7:3 p.m.  The black colored smoke that arose from the fire was most likely caused from the belts of the machinery as well as hydraulic lines. Two hydraulic drums had exploded during the blaze as well shaking windows in the neighborhood.   Woodland Pulps operations should not be affected by the delay in the chip processing plant as other suppliers of chips are relied upon as well.  

The Fulghum Fibres plant had been acquired by Rentech Inc  in May  2013.   They operate other chipping facilities in the Southern part of the United States.  There are 42 people employed at its Baileyville facility.

A spokesperson for Rentech  states: We’re currently assessing  the impact of the fire.  The company is committed to repairing or rebuilding the chip mill.  They are also committed to maintaining the flow of wood chips to Woodland Pulp and finding a way to provide uninterrupted service to the mill. “

 Fulghum Fibers provides the majority of the wood chips to the pulp mill. Other sources are also in coming and the work at Woodland Pulp should not be affected  by the fire with plans to maintain and resume work as usual. The Fulghum Fibres building is being gutted and renovated at press time to assure that it will be back in service as soon as possible.