Belfast rallies behind Penobscot McCrum employees who lost jobs in fire
138 people are now looking for a new job
BELFAST, Maine (WABI) - Representatives from the Penobscot McCrum facility are meeting with city officials this week to discuss how they plan to move forward following last week’s fire that left 138 people without a job.
“I think everybody is rooting for their redevelopment,” said Bub Fournier, Director of Code and Planning for the City of Belfast.
Not much is left of the potato processing facility in Belfast.
On Tuesday, the Maine State Fire Marshal’s office released new info regarding the fire, saying it was accidental.
While they may never know for sure, they believe it could have been a spontaneous combustion of leftover food products or a mechanical issue.
Officials say the fire sparked at the end of a conveyer belt that runs through the fryer.
It then spread through the exhaust venting system into the space between the ceiling and the roof, which is located above the fire suppression system.
Belfast Fire Chief Patrick Richards says the control and extinguishment of the fire was a team effort by more than 60 first responders. All went home without any reported injuries.
“I’m really proud of our crew that that was the outcome,” said Belfast City Manager, Erin Herbig.
Herbig says the McCrum family and the city’s focus is on the 138 people now looking for new jobs.
The Department of Labor Rapid Response Team has been in town enrolling them in unemployment.
“We’re looking to organize a career fair. We’ve had dozens of local employers reach out to us, so we’re trying to get that as organized as possible. We’re also trying to coordinate a resource fair because there exists rent relief, heating assistance, things like that”.
More than $30,000 has been raised through Belfast’s ‘Keep the Faith’ Fund. That is a small business grant program designed to provide relief to Belfast businesses that have had to close or experienced significant reduction in business since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The McCrum employees will receive their last paycheck on Thursday and there will be a gap week for when they can qualify for unemployment so we’re hoping to leverage those funds that have been given to us by the generosity of residents and businesses and people that love Belfast,” explained Herbig.
City officials say the McCrum family is weighing their options when it comes to rebuilding, but they are hopeful they can rebuild in the same spot.
“As far as the redevelopment, it depends on how quickly they can get their team together to sort of assess what the scope is of what they want to do for a rebuild and get contractors to bid,” said Fournier. “All the construction projects that we are seeing right now, there just not as easy as it was two years ago. So, hopefully quick.”
A date has been set for the spaghetti dinner that will benefit the 138 people who lost their jobs.
The Steel Guardians Motorcycle Club will join the city in hosting the dinner on Friday, April 15th from five to 7:30.
It will be held at Belfast Area High School.
Dinner will be by donation.
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