Investigators try to piece together what happened at Jay mill

Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 12:24 PM EDT
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The Jay community is still reeling from an explosion that was felt all throughout the town just after noon on Wednesday.

Investigators are now trying to figure out what caused part of the Pixelle

Androscoggin Mill to blow up.

Officials are calling it a miracle no one was seriously hurt.

Shocking video captures the moment when an explosion rocked the Town of Jay Wednesday.

A truck driver lined up to get into the Pixelle Androscoggin Mill caught it all on camera.

"After Farmington, seven months ago. We were fearing the worst Wednesday, but by the grace of God it turned out much different," Joel Davis, State Fire Marshal's Office, explained.

"It just feels like one thing after another. Just to have this happen just seems like a little too much too soon," State House Representative Tina Riley said.

Less than 20 miles away, a propane explosion in Farmington last fall killed 1 firefighter and injured six others.

Roxie Lassetter, Pixelle Specialty Solutions, said, "The headline Wednesday is everyone is accounted for and there are no injuries on that mill site. As the gentleman mentioned it's nothing short of a miracle."

"To the workers of the Androscoggin Mill, you went to work every day as you do every day, prepared to work hard, to earn your livelihood and provide for your families. Please know that we stand with you during this difficult time. That we support you. If there's ever a day when we should believe in miracles, Wednesday is,” Governor Janet Mills added.

Officials say a line ruptured in the building where the pulping process takes place.

About 160 people are on-site during the day.

No one was working in that area at the time.

We're told there were only minor respiratory injuries as a result of the blast.

The mill, which employs about 500 people, is a major part of this community.

Rep. Riley said, "I don't know what’s going to happen to the mill. The not knowing is really painful."

It's not only mill employees who are affected, but also the loggers, truckers, and others.

"We've been through enough. With the coronavirus and everything that we're dealing with in this community -- we have a lot of entrepreneurs here, people who work at small businesses and self-employed people. So we've been struggling," added Rep. Riley.

As investigators try to piece together what exactly went wrong, Mill officials say they'll try to get it back up and running as soon as possible.

This community is coming to terms with what a lot of people are calling a very close call.

"Small town Maine at its best here everyone knows each other and they stay in close contact. People are really devastated by this,” Rep. Riley said.

According to Pixelle, "The incident released a mixture of wood fiber, water and pulping liquor. At this point, we are evaluating potential environmental impact." They say they are taking appropriate steps to stabilize the process to restore order to the mill site as soon as it is safe to do so.

Company representatives say they are in the preliminary stages of assessing the situation.

They say all on-site emergency protocols were implemented.

Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC) released the following statement: “The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine was saddened to hear about the devastating explosion at the Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC mill in Jay, but we are relieved to hear that no one was injured by the blast. Many Maine loggers and truckers were in the vicinity of the mill at the time of the explosion, and we are grateful that both they and the mill's workers escaped harm.”

“We are deeply concerned for those, including many of our own members, whose livelihoods will be affected by this event, and we urge support for efforts to rebuild and restart the mill. The mill is a vital market for Maine loggers and truckers, and in the current already challenged economy the good jobs it supports both in the Jay area and at logging and trucking companies across Maine are vital to the future of our state's rural communities.”

Due to an incident in Jay, please try to avoid the in-town area. If you are in the area please use caution and give way to responders. We will update you when we can, please avoid calling with questions.

Posted by Franklin County Regional Communications Center on Wednesday, April 15, 2020