Two firefighters in full gear are seen with their backs to the camera. The front cab of an Orrington fire truck is seen to the left of the firefighters.
Crews respond to a fire at the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. plant Thursday morning that began as a flare-up in a pile of trash that had been delivered to the incinerator. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A flare-up in a large pile of trash led to a fire at an Orrington waste plant on Thursday morning that will prevent the plant from taking in more trash until next week.

The fire occurred on the tipping room floor of the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. incinerator at around 8 or 9 a.m., according to plant manager Henry Lang. The tipping room floor is where trucks unload municipal waste they pick up from communities across much of Maine.

The waste ignited after it was exposed to oxygen as workers dug into the pile.

“When you have a pile of material, you can get some spontaneous combustion that can cause it to heat up, and you get a smoldering fire in that pile,” Lang said.

A fire truck extends its ladder into a blue building with metal siding. A cluster of fire fighters and safety personnel can be seen in reflective vests by the building. An Orrington fire truck is seen in the lower left corner of the photo.
Crews respond to a fire at the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. plant Thursday morning that began as a flare-up in a pile of trash that had been delivered to the incinerator. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The plant will not take in any municipal waste until Nov. 10 so that PERC will have time to address what occurred in the fire, he said.

PERC since last summer has been taking in about three-quarters of the waste from towns across central, eastern and northern Maine that would have otherwise gone to the shuttered Coastal Resources of Maine waste plant across the river in Hampden. The plant also takes in waste from other communities that contract directly with PERC.

PERC staff called the fire department after they tried to put out the fire themselves and became concerned about the fire. Smoke could be seen billowing out of the eastern part of the building before firefighters put it out.

The fire is not an especially major one for PERC, Lang said.

There have been a handful of flare-ups in the past few months that quickly came under control, he said.

A firefighter climbs a ladder towards the top of a blue building with metal siding.
Crews respond to a fire at the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. plant Thursday morning that began as a flare-up in a pile of trash that had been delivered to the incinerator. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

“Sometimes you have chemicals mixing in the waste. Sometimes you have materials that come in that are already hot,” Lang said. “There’s just multiple materials that can go in this direction.”

There were no injuries, Lang said.

He doesn’t believe there will be any damage to the facility itself, especially since the sprinkler system hadn’t gone off.

The waste from communities that contract with PERC will go instead to Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town until Wednesday.

The Municipal Review Committee, which handles arrangements for the towns sending their waste to PERC instead of the Hampden plant, uses both Juniper Ridge and Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock as backup when PERC isn’t open.