What was once a warehouse smolders at the former Lincoln paper mill on Thursday, a day after three fires were set there, police said. Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN

A 59-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a large fire that burned parts of a former Lincoln mill to the ground on Wednesday.

David Parsons of Lincoln has been charged with three counts of arson for allegedly causing the blaze that burned a scale shed and a 300-foot-long warehouse, according to Department of Public Safety spokesperson Stephen McCausland.

The blaze was ignited Wednesday afternoon at the 387-acre Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC site, near Mill Street, and burned for more than three hours before it was extinguished with the help of nearly a dozen fire departments.

Parsons is a former employee of the mill, McCausland said. Police received information late Wednesday evening that suggested Parsons might be involved in the conflagration.

He is being held at the Penobscot County Jail. Arson is a Class A crime punishable by up to 30 years and a fine of up to $50,000. If convicted, Parsons could be ordered to pay restitution to mill owners.

No one was home at Parsons’ Hale Street home when a Bangor Daily News reporter knocked Thursday night. Neighbors described Parsons as a quiet loner who until recently lived with relatives. They said police had visited his home more than once in recent weeks.

Lincoln residents expressed surprise at the fire being called an arson, but not at the fire itself.

The mill’s being stripped of parts by salvage workers, many armed with blowtorches and other heat-producing cutting tools, was well-known in the area, said 38-year-old David Fortino of Lincoln.

A worker at McDonald’s, Fortino said he was driving along West Broadway near the site Wednesday night when he saw Lincoln and Howland firefighters at the scene and thick, black smoke pouring from two spots.

“It was not really out of control, because the firefighters were there,” Fortino said.

Some said they suspected the salvage workers accidentally set the fire with their cutting tools.

Other residents expressed surprise at the arson charges. The mill has been shut down for more than three years, they said, and its workforce ― mostly middle-aged men ― were well-attuned to the slumps of the state’s paper manufacturing industries.

Rumors had abounded for several months that the mill site had a buyer who would start some sort of business there, residents said.

BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.