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New details, plans to rebuild following Penobscot-McCrum fire

Belfast city officials met with the representatives from the Penobscot McCrum potato processing facility Tuesday to discuss the next steps.

BELFAST, Maine — The Maine Office of State Fire Marshal shared new details on Tuesday about the cause and spread of the fire at the Penobscot McCrum potato processing facility in Belfast on Thursday. 

Shannon Moss, public information officer for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said the fire started in the area of one of the fryolators. Moss said the fire started on the conveyor belt that runs next to the fryolator and extended into a ventilation system which allowed it to spread to the roof system. 

Patrick Richards, chief of the Belfast Fire Department, said the fire spread between the ceiling and the facility's roof, which is above the building's fire suppression system. Richards said that explains why the fire spread as quickly as it did.

Belfast city officials met with representatives from McCrum Tuesday morning to discuss what happens next. 

As plans are discussed, McCrum's 138 workers are now looking for new jobs. 

Bub Fournier, director of code and planning for Belfast, said the owners have options for rebuilding. 

"There is regular zoning that applies to them, but there's also contract rezoning which allows them to make a unique agreement with the city to facilitate a development there. So redevelopment could look like what was already there. It could look completely different. There's a lot of options that they have," Fournier said. 

Fournier added they also discussed permits Jay McCrum, owner of the facility, will need to start the clean-up process.

"[We're] trying to facilitate anything they need, including making sure the site is safe. In the immediate future, I'm trying to get them their demo permit so they can clean up the site and make it ready for any potential redevelopment," Fournier said.

Waldo County lawmakers also released a joint statement today in response to the fire. 

"We are deeply grateful to the first responders who battled the fire, evacuated the area, and worked so hard to protect residents from being harmed by the incident. Our hearts are with the 138 employees who worked at Penobscot McCrum and with everyone who has been directly and indirectly affected by this tragedy. As the lawmakers representing Waldo County in Augusta, we are committed to helping our constituents navigate state and local resources and assist in continued efforts to monitor air and water quality. Please reach out to us if you have questions, thoughts, or ideas. Together, we can recover and rebuild."

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