MECHANIC FALLS — The Mechanic Falls Fire Department continued Monday night to fight a fire that destroyed an old paper mill building Sunday.

The fire, which broke out early Sunday afternoon, was still burning as of 8:30 p.m. Monday. By that time, most of the firefighters from 19 initially responding departments around Maine had left, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office had begun an investigation into the cause of the blaze, according to Town Manager Zakk Maher.

There were no reports of injuries.

Throughout Monday, firefighters from eight towns worked to extinguish the fire as it continued to flare up.

Excavators opened previously inaccessible hot spots, and fire crews were cycled in and out for rest, Maher said.

The building on Lewiston Street is owned by local developer Charles Starbird, who declined to comment Monday.

The fire was reported at the former Marcal Paper mill just after 1 p.m. Sunday. Within two hours, crews had drained the Mechanic Falls reservoir, according to the town’s Facebook page.

After that, it said, more than 30 tankers “began running laps” between a pumping station on Route 11 and Lewiston Street.

The fire created a cloud of thick, black smoke that could be seen for miles. Witnesses reported that flames reached as high as 80 feet.

Aerial video by Sun Journal Staff Photographer Russ Dillingham

David Stimson, a 75-year-old retired firefighter who now volunteers for the town’s fire department, heard the fire call over his radio. He lives up the street from the former mill and saw the fire as soon as he stepped outside to head to the fire station.

“It was one big ball of flame,” he said.

Stimson and his crew were among the first at the scene. By 6 p.m. Sunday, the fire was roughly 45 percent contained, according to the town’s Facebook page.

A video on the Facebook page shows a destroyed building and a firefighter trudging through piles of debris.

Several businesses were located inside the structure, including Maine Cycle of Auburn, which used the space as a warehouse for motorcycles and parts; Corcoran Environmental Services, which recycles plastics; Pine Tree Waste, which is owned by Casella Waste Systems; and Northe Woodworking, a cabinet manufacturer.

A GoFundMe page was set up for Northe on Sunday. The fundraising page, which seeks $50,000, had raised almost $1,500 by early Monday afternoon.

The mill complex, which included a number of buildings, has had a variety of owners since it was built in the 1850s.

A 1972 Maine Sunday Telegram story listed four owners since World War II alone, including the papermaking division of the Pond’s hand cream company, Waterfalls Tissue Co. and International Paper Co.

Marcal was the last paper company to operate the mill. It halted work there in the early 1980s and put the complex up for sale.

According to Eriks Petersons, president of the Mechanic Falls Historical Society, there have been two other significant fires at the site in recent memory.

The first occurred in the late 1980s and ended any attempt to restore the complex to a working paper mill.

The second fire, which was not as damaging, happened more than a decade ago.

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