WINSLOW — A prominent building supply facility in the heart of town was ravaged by a destructive fire on Friday, drawing emergency crews from across the region.

The McCormack Building Supply facility, at 8 Lithgow St., was engulfed in flames around noon Friday as flames and black smoke billowed into the air. Winslow fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez said that no injuries were reported and all staff members had been accounted for.

Authorities temporarily shut down the intersection of Augusta and China roads near the scene, as crews worked to contain the blaze. Several departments from neighboring communities sent fire crews to respond, including China, Fairfield, Oakland, Waterville, Weeks Mills, Clinton, Albion and Vassalboro.

The fire was reported at 11:52 a.m. Black smoke from the blaze could be seen for miles, across the Kennebec River area into Waterville.

The McCormack Building Supply facility in Winslow is engulfed in flames Friday afternoon as crews respond to the blaze. Morning Sentinel photo by Taylor Abbott

Ralph Merrow, of Waterville, said he was inside the nearby Bee’s Snack Bar with his wife Heather when someone said they saw smoke. Merrow went outside to see the billowing black cloud and ran down to see as the first fire trucks started arriving. He noticed flames shooting from the main building off Lithgow Street. Merrow noted that he’s been a customer at McCormack’s and said its destruction would have a big impact in the region.

“It’s devastating,” Merrow said, “not only to the owners, but also to the employees, coming right up on the holidays.”

McCormack Building Supply is owned by Duane Farnham, according to the town of Winslow’s code assessing office. Attempts to reach Farnham for comment Friday were not successful. The business sells everything from building materials and power tools to roofing, insulation and kitchen and bath amenities in its showroom, as well as offering drafting and design services, according to its website.

A nearby home and historic library that were next to the fire were declared safe. It was not yet clear how many staff members were on the site at the time that the fire began.

Winslow police Chief Shawn O’Leary said at the scene that many area contractors depend on McCormack’s for supplies.

Kimberly Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, noted on Friday that McCormack Building Supply is a member of the chamber.

“Mid-Maine Chamber and Central Maine Growth Council were saddened to learn of the devastating fire that occurred today at McCormack’s, a longstanding and respected member of the business community,” Lindlof said. “We stand ready to work with the McCormack’s team to assist in their future plans. Our thoughts are with the Farnham family and all the McCormack’s employees.”

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection sent officials to the scene to help limit environmental impacts to the surrounding storm drains, as oils and minerals stocked the building.

According to Rodriguez, the fire was declared a third-alarm and he also asked for additional resources as crews scrambled to contain the blaze and direct the massive firefighting effort. Due to the size of the property, which stretches along Lithgow Street with the Kennebec River in sight, fire crews were limited on what they could do as only one excavator was immediately available.

“It didn’t take long to go up,” he said.

Rodriguez said that the main building was destroyed and that minor damage occurred in the rear building. As the afternoon progressed, crews worked to salvage and overhaul the scene as they put out hotspots. Crews struggled to douse flames in one area after chemicals apparently continued to fuel flames.

Crowds of onlookers gathered as well.

“This was a great job done by the departments,” Rodriguez said. “Members from central Maine came together to tackle this. We saw some heroic efforts come from all departments today.”

Smoke billows across the Kennebec River, as seen from the Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville, as the McCormack Building Supply facility in Winslow is engulfed in flames Friday afternoon. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

A McCormack Building Supply staff member who declined to be identified said on scene that they had just started paving the parking lot at the property on Friday and that everyone got out safely. The staff member also said the whole building had caught fire and not just a specific section of the property, and the employee did not know how the fire started.

The McCormack property on Lithgow Street is near the Kennebec River, on a back street that intersects with China Road and Bay Street/Augusta Road. Traffic was backed up in all directions near the scene, which is off U.S. Route 201 and near Route 137.

By 1:30 p.m., the Office of State Fire Marshal had arrived to probe the fire’s cause.

Shortly after 2 p.m., crews had most of the fire put out, except for an area where a chemical was fueling flames and was difficult to extinguish.

 

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