Fire destroys sawmill at Katahdin Forest Products in Oakfield

OAKFIELD, Maine — A Sept. 16 fire at Katahdin Forest Products left one of its sawmill buildings totally destroyed, as well as most of the equipment inside it. 

Firefighters spent more than four hours trying to extinguish the blaze, with sparks often flying due to windy conditions. Fire departments from Oakfield, Houlton, Island Falls, Patten, Staceyville and Sherman , as well as the Maine Forestry Service all worked together to extinguish the fire. 

“We called in Houlton and Forestry to help because we didn’t know obviously with the cedar mill how big and how fast it could go,” said Matt Scott, fire chief for the Oakfield Fire Department. “They were huge in helping us.” 

David Gordon, president of Katahdin Forest Products, said that the incident will affect the company’s fencing production, but not it’s housing production and the business would continue to resume without any stoppage. 

“We’ve got two other mills, one on the premises here in Oakfield and another in Ashland,” said Gordon. “They will continue to saw, and everything else will continue to go forward.”

While the cause of the fire remains unknown, Gordon speculated that recent dry weather as a result of the ongoing drought may have contributed to the fire. 

“Sawmills historically have an awful lot of fuel around them, with shavings and sawdust and that type of thing,” he stated. “When you combine that with one of the worst droughts in 100 years and everything is very very dry, you add a little wind to that and it’s certainly a recipe for disaster.” 

While the sawmill building is a total loss, as is most of the equipment inside it, Gordon said the product material itself had not been affected as much. It was the second fire to occur at a Katahdin Forest Products sawmill, the first happening back in 1979.

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