Firefighters from at least ten communities responded to a huge blaze that broke out early Thursday morning at the Penobscot McCrum potato processing facility in Belfast.

The Belfast Fire Department received a call around 2:00 a.m. reporting a fire at the facility on Pierce Street on the Belfast Waterfront. Authorities say eight workers who were inside the building made it out safely.

Crews from Belmont, Searsmont, Northport, Searsport, Morrill, Montville, Lincolnville, Camden and Liberty were assisting Belfast Fire Department in bringing the fire under control.

Fire crews were still fighting the fire well into the afternoon and were having difficulty due to the metal siding and roofing, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Early on, there was concern that propane and ammonia tanks at the plant might explode, according to various published reports. The Harbor Hill Nursing Home was evacuated and the bridge on Route 1 in Belfast was shut down for a time, according to Waldo County officials. Schools in the area were closed.

Emergency Management officials were urging residents to shelter in place, to keep doors and windows shut, and to turn off any vents that might draw smoke into their homes.

Maine Department of Public Safety
Maine Department of Public Safety

The Maine State Fire Marshal's office and hazmat teams were called to the site.

Officials believe the fire started in one of the large Fryolator machines. Investigators with the Fire Marshal’s Office were interviewing staff on Thursday and are expected to return Friday to process the scene.

Penobscot McCrum LLC, which has its roots in an Aroostook County farm family, also has a potato processing facility in Washburn The company processes a variety of potato products, including French fries, potato wedges and baked potato cakes. The Belfast plant employs about 150 people.

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