NEW VINEYARD — Richard Heath left a job interview at Maine Wood Turning Inc. feeling confident about his chances Monday morning.

Just a few hours later, however, a fire broke out at the sawmill where the 19-year-old man had applied. He stood on a nearby entrance road and watched thick black smoke pouring from the giant building in New Vineyard.

Heath shook his head and worried that more than just wood chips were burning inside.

“Hopefully it doesn’t burn too bad and take away the jobs,” he said. “I really thought I had a good shot and I need the work.”

Heath was among a handful of other New Vineyard residents standing near the mill Monday afternoon off Lake Street. They arrived there shortly after the fire was reported around 1:30 p.m., according to New Vineyard fire Chief Doug Churchill.

Sawmill workers discovered heavy flames and smoke inside the building, and the mill was shut down and evacuated immediately, Churchill said, speaking at the scene.

Fire departments from at least seven towns in the area assisted at the scene. No injuries had been reported Monday afternoon.

Churchill didn’t know how many workers were evacuated or the extent of the damage to the building. He described the fire as under control by 3 p.m. Firefighters remained on the scene to extinguish hot spots inside the building.

Churchill said he thought the fire started in the mill’s wood-chip room, where sawdust and other wood material are stored and processed, he said, citing reports from sawmill workers. He didn’t know what caused the fire, which workers said may have started near an electrical panel, Churchill said.

Many of town’s residents work at the mill, so Heath and his 47-year-old stepmother, Julie Heath, started getting calls about the fire from neighbors and family members, she said.

Julie Heath, who worked for 12 years at the mill, arrived at the scene because she wanted to check on her friends and former coworkers. She didn’t know the number of sawmill employees but described it as a company that supports many of the families in the small rural Franklin County town.

“I know a lot of the people who rely on somebody who works here, and this could be really bad for everybody,” she said.

Company officials identified by Churchill at the scene declined to comment.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]


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