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August 31, 2017

Ashland's Northeast Pellets suffers catastrophic fire

A fire at Northeast Pellets mill in Ashland destroyed all of the 500 tons of bulk pellets stored in two silos.

The Fiddlehead Focus reported it was the second catastrophic fire suffered by the plant since it opened in 2006. Chief Don Bouley of the Ashland Fire Department told the paper the cause is under investigation. 

“With this type of industry, you get a lot of fine-powdered dust, and that’s not good,” Bouley said.

Owner Matt Bell, who started Northeast Pellets as the state’s first pellet manufacturer, said he planned to rebuild. The plant employs 11. The company still has 2,500 tons of bagged pellets in inventory. Northeast Pellets sells direct to consumers from the mill, at more than 20 retailers in Maine and four stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as well as in bulk to large customers such as the University of Maine at Fort Kent, which operates a biomass boiler with the local school district.

Bell said Corinth Pellets has offered to help with contracts for bulk accounts.

Demand was slack for the wood pellet industry this past winter, due to continued low oil prices and an average winter, Maine Pellet Fuels Association Executive Director Bill Bell told Mainebiz in June. 

The pellet industry took off eight years ago, when pellet boilers and stoves became available and forest product companies in Maine began looking at the fuel as a strong new market, and got a boost through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which awarded $11.4 million to the Maine Forest Service to fund pellet boiler installation projects in municipalities, schools, colleges, universities and a hospital. Those projects stimulated interest among residential customers.

Efficiency Maine subsequently instituted an incentive program that offered a rebate for residential users who were installing pellet boilers.


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