April 09, 2020

Fire destroys horse-feed business in Fort Fairfield> Lucerne Farms expects to reopen after repairs

FORT FAIRFIELD — Seven municipal fire departments fought an early morning fire of undetermined origin Saturday that destroyed an alfalfa horse-feed business and warehouse, causing $500,000 to $750,000 in damage.

Two firefighters were treated at The Aroostook Medical Center for smoke inhalation and later released.

Lost in the fire, according to general manager George James of Lucerne Farms, was a warehouse which housed raw materials, supplies and machinery. Also damaged were a separate processing area and an office trailer.

James said the Conant Road buildings were owned by the town of Fort Fairfield and he had no idea what they were worth. He said he was adequately insured and expects to reopen the processing plant which employed 14 people. James said employees will not lose their jobs.

The facility produced two alfalfa and hay product feeds for the horse business in New England, in 12 other states and six foreign countries. The business started in Fort Fairfield in 1992.

James said employees left the plant at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

He said, “We are trying very hard to salvage this and keep it going. I certainly hope we can get back up and running.”

James said Lucerne Farms had made a deposit to buy the large building. He was not sure if the town still had the building insured. He said he had given the town a $50,000 deposit to buy it. The deal was to be completed within days.

Fortunately, said James, the company had a large quantity of raw material, from last year’s bumper crop, stored off site.

“Business was booming,” said James. “We will certainly have some interruption of service, and I don’t know what that will do to customers.”

Among the lost equipment were two trucks, a four-wheel-drive tractor and several conveyers, said James.

The fire was reported at 6 a.m. Saturday, said Fire Chief Dana McLaughlin. Firefighters were at the scene for eight hours Saturday, and spot fires were still burning Sunday afternoon, said McLaughlin.

Fire departments from Mars Hill, Caribou, Limestone, Presque Isle, Easton and Fort Fairfield, and Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, brought 70 men and 13 trucks.

Payloaders and bulldozers were also furnished by the town, local utilities and McCain Foods. A municipal snow operator from Easton plowed the road to allow crews to the site Saturday morning. Nearly a foot of snow had fallen during the night.

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