WATERVILLE, Maine — Shortly before 3:30 a.m., Waterville fire units responded to the Colby College Physical Plant at 400 Mayflower Hill Drive for a report of a fire alarm activation, a news release from the Waterville Fire Department said Wednesday afternoon.
When the first fire unit arrived at the scene, additional assistance was requested after seeing smoke coming out of the building, according to the release. Fire units from Oakland, Winslow, Fairfield, and Skowhegan responded to the scene shortly after.
"Crews entered the building and located a conveyor belt carrying biomass wood chips had caught fire," the release said. "Visibility because of heavy smoke and the fact that the conveyors spanned three levels created some suppression challenges."
Damage to the facility was minimized because of the fire alarm activation, sprinkler system activation, a calculated fire attack from fire units, and safety protocols followed by the plant staff, according to the release.
"Additionally, roof hatches, designed to ventilate the building, operated as designed assisting in visibility," the release said.
The release states the plant is staffed around the clock seven days a week by trained boiler operators, and that plant also has a "redundant natural gas boiler backup" ensuring heat will not be disrupted to the campus.
The Waterville Fire Department said no staff or responding firefighters were injured by the fire. The damage to the biomass plant is currently being evaluated by Colby College staff.
The State Fire Marshal, called to assist in the investigation with the fire department, deemed the cause of the fire to be an accident, the release states.
"It is suspected that smoldering wood ash, a byproduct of a biomass plant, ignited wood chips on a conveyor belt, which extended to three different floors," the Waterville Fire Department said.