July 14, 2010

Fire shuts down Skowhegan shoe work for a day

SKOWHEGAN — An electrical fire at New Balance on Tuesday morning smoked employees out of work for the day.

The production employees of the factory at 17 Walnut St. were sent home after “extensive smoke” covered the third and fourth floors, the building lost power and the telephones went down, Skowhegan Police Chief Tom Keene said.

The fire started in a conduit in the electrical service room on the first floor. The room is where electricity enters the factory and where the main circuit breakers are, Keene said.

Though there was minor damage to the room, “The potential for a much larger incident was there,” he said.

Employees knew something was wrong when lights turned off and equipment stopped working. When the fire was discovered, staff put it out with a dry powder chemical extinguisher, and workers were evacuated.

“Their own staff acted very quickly and properly in attempting to control the fire,” Keene said. All employees were evacuated and accounted for, and the fire was extinguished about the time Skowhegan firefighters’ arrived shortly after 8:18 a.m.

“They did a perfect job with the evacuation and accounting for their people,” Keene said.

Fourteen Skowhegan firefighters responded with three fire engines and an aerial ladder truck. They determined that the fire had not spread and attempted to disperse smoke with large fans.

Keene said the fire was likely caused by an electrical short, but until New Balance’s staff examines the source more thoroughly, he couldn’t say for sure.

It is expected the electricity will be restored today.

No one was injured, and the fourth and fifth floors remained relatively clear of smoke. Firefighters left the scene around 9:30 a.m.

Erin Rhoda — 474-9534

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