This August 2020 file photo shows sign in front of an entrance to the University of Maine campus that tells visitors they are required to wear masks while on campus. Credit: Nina Mahaleris / The Penobscot Times

An early morning fire at the University of Maine briefly closed a key research center on campus. 

The fire was small and contained in an industrial oven inside the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, located in the center of the Orono campus. Wood that was drying inside the oven caught fire and produced considerable smoke, which caused the campus to close off the area.

Due to the amount of smoke, the first firefighters on scene thought the situation was worse than it was, according to Orono’s Director of Public Safety Geoff Low. 

Initially, employees at the center were told not to come to work, but have since been allowed to come in, except where the fire was, said Margaret Nagle, a spokesperson for the school. 

The center is an interdisciplinary research facility that focuses on material sciences, manufacturing and engineering, according to its website

The center is also set to receive the bulk of nearly $60 million budgeted in bills going through Congress. Of that money, $35 million will be used for a new “Factory of the Future” that could allow UMaine to manufacture affordable housing with a 3D printer.

The money would allow for the expansion of the current composites laboratory with a new research facility to manufacture a variety of objects using bio-based and other recyclable materials. 

There were no reported injuries. 

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...