Update: Investigators probe cause of recycling business blaze in Topsham
TOPSHAM — The cause remained unknown Thursday morning of a fire that erupted early Wednesday at a Main Street metal recycling business in Pejepscot Village.
Topsham Fire Chief Ken Brillant said the fire at Grimmel Industries is being investigated by the state fire marshal's office. He said the blaze was under control and basically extinguished.
Firefighters from several surrounding towns rushed to Grimmel early Wednesday to battle the fifth fire to erupt at that site in the past 14 years.
The fire was in a yard containing cars to be recycled, about half of
which were involved in the rapidly spreading blaze, according to the chief. Grimmel on Thursday was using its equipment to separate the recycled debris, Brillant said, explaining that "the only way to put (the fire) out is to tear it apart."
The call for the fire came in around 2:15 a.m. Wednesday.
"Brunswick (Fire Department) had actually gone out on the River Road for an investigation of something burning," Brillant said Wednesday. "And when they got up there, across from the fishway, they realized it was in Topsham, and that's how we got the call."
"There are a couple of buildings on the other side," he explained. "We had to get a lot of water in here, establish a good water supply and water source, and then start setting up our trucks."
The chief said the fire presented no life-safety concerns, and that no one had been hurt. As a result, the firefighters took a slow approach to setting up a defensive operation to ensure that no one was hurt and no equipment was damaged.
There was so much fire when firefighters arrived that it was difficult to pinpoint a specific area where the fire began, Brillant said.
No buildings were destroyed, although shredded debris piled inside an open-air concrete lean-to were smoldering. Besides many vehicles to be recycled, Grimmel lost a relatively new loader parked in the middle of the yard, according to the chief.
Brillant said there were about 18 fire department tankers on-site and that more than a dozen communities were involved, either at the fire or covering stations for those fire departments at Grimmel. New Gloucester, Yarmouth, Falmouth, Freeport, Richmond, Phippsburg, Brunswick and Bowdoinham were among the many communities involved.
A fire that occurred at the site in 1995, where a paper mill once stood, caused more than $1 million in damage and was determined to be the result of arson. An outbuilding burned in 1999, and a two-story pile of recyclable items and a small building caught fire in 2002. A three-alarm fire followed in 2004, where the fire started in a pile of scrap metal and consumed three empty buildings.
"It's an industrial site," Brillant said. "You look at Portland, they've got a couple places they go; every couple years they go to the same place. It's just probably the nature of the beast."
A man who answered the phone at Grimmel Wednesday morning declined to comment.
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.