Fire crews pour water on the burning building at the Penobscot McCrum facility in Belfast. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

Representatives from the Penobscot McCrum potato processor in Belfast destroyed by fire on Thursday, plan to meet with city code and planning officials Tuesday morning to discuss cleanup and rebuilding, a McCrum spokesperson said.

The company has not decided if it will try to rebuild in the same location on Pierce Street on the banks of the Passagassawakeag River, Dayna McCrum, operations supervisor for the company, said. The company owns the land where the plant was destroyed by a fire thought to be started by a fryolator.

McCrum said the company met with employees on Monday but no decisions have been made about layoffs or moving some workers to its other plant in Washburn. About 138 people work at the factory, which processes potatoes into baked and mashed potato products as well as wedges and potato skins. It uses its own potatoes as well as those of other growers.

“We’re just trying to make smart business decisions and not make any emotional decisions,” she said. “So we’re just going to start with this meeting tomorrow.”

It’s too early to tell how the fire will affect potato processing in the state, Don Flannery, president of the Maine Potato Board, said. He said company CEO Jay McCrum told him Sunday that his intent was to get the plant back up and running.

“McCrum is a major part of our industry,” Flannery said.

Maine’s potato industry produces sales of $540 million and employs 6,150, according to a report by The Maine Monitor and Aroostook County Tourism. Potatoes top Maine’s agricultural production, followed by milk and blueberries, according to federal statistics.

Penobscot McCrum’s wastewater treatment plant, which is on the same land but separate from the potato processing plant, is intact. Belfast’s air and water quality are being monitored in the wake of the fire, because local residents worried that water from dousing the fire, plus chemicals and other substances from the building, could go into the air and run into the river and Belfast Bay.

This is the second fire at the Belfast location. In 2019 an office building at the same location was destroyed and moved to a different building in Belfast. 

The Penobscot McCrum company was created in 2004 after the McCrum family bought the assets of Penobscot Frozen Foods. The company later expanded operations to Washburn.

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...