Ice cream containers are seen at the Skowhegan-based Gifford's Famous Ice Cream company in this 2014 file photo. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — The fire that caused significant damage to the Gifford’s Ice Cream plant in Skowhegan has been ruled accidental.

The fire at the plant on Hathaway Street reportedly started in a freezer in a processing room around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, according to officials with Gifford’s Ice Cream. An investigation by the state fire marshal’s office determined that the fire likely started accidentally.

Although there were 36 people inside the plant when the fire started, everyone was able to get out safely, and no injuries were reported.

The manufacturing plant and offices have been badly damaged.

“Initially upon arrival there’s life safety concerns. There’s the hazardous material concerns, and there’s the electrical concerns from the power. Right up the hill, we have the exposure of the hospital, so if there was an ammonia leak, we had to take that into consideration, and when you arrive with all those things to consider with four people, it’s a lot,” Skowhegan Fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez said.

“The Gifford’s team is overwhelmed by the amount of support they’ve received from the community following the fire at their Skowhegan dairy,” plant operators said Thursday. “They want to continue to thank people for their support and patience as they continue to assess the damage and navigate what this means in the coming weeks and months. As soon as we have more information, we’ll be sure to provide updates.”

It is not clear yet how Gifford’s ice cream operations will be affected.