OAKLAND — A large machine that grinds demolition debris was destroyed by fire Tuesday morning at the Oakland Transfer Station on Town Farm Road, sending up plumes of black smoke that could be seen miles away.

Fire Chief David Coughlin said at the scene that the portable, 2000 CBI Magnum Force machine, which is transported on a tractor trailer, is owned by Craig Marshall, who leases space at the transfer station. The machine grinds demolition debris when the piles become very high, and Marshall then sells the wood chips to a mill to be used for biomass.

Later Tuesday, Marshall said that smaller fires have happened in the machine during periods of dry weather, but this fire was worse than others he’d seen. The machine isn’t repairable, he said, and a new 2000 CBI Magnum Force costs about $800,000.

The fire, reported just before 10 a.m. Tuesday, apparently started in the engine of the machine, which is about 45 feet long and about 12 feet tall, according to Coughlin. He said the machine is insured.

Thick black smoke from the fire was visible several miles from the scene. Coughlin said that with all the oils and greases used to operate the machine, when the fire dropped down onto its rubber conveyor belt, thick clouds of smoke roiled up.

“It appears that it was an engine fire,” Coughlin said at 10:40 a.m. “Somebody did try to extinguish it with a fire extinguisher, but obviously wasn’t able to.”

As sleet and freezing rain fell on the transfer station grounds, firefighters were on top of the machine, trying to gain access to its interior by using pike poles. “They’re trying to get access to the actual grinder to extinguish the fire that’s inside there from the debris that they were grinding,” Coughlin said.

The fire did not spread to the pile of demolition debris next to the machine. Coughlin said it was fortunate that the fire did not happen during the dry season, when fire could have extended to the pile.

Marshall has three machines and said he plans to bring another to Oakland within a week to continue grinding debris for the town.

Oakland Police Department assisted at the scene.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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