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Bennington

Paper mill reopens less than 2 weeks after electrical fire

BENNINGTON — The Monadnock Paper Mills is back up and running as of Monday, after an electrical fire in the early morning hours of July 3 knocked out power throughout the building.

Joe Fletcher, vice president of Human Resources at the mill, said in an interview Monday that the plan since the fire happened was to get the mill up and running by Monday. The day of the fire, the mill was scheduled to shut down for regular summer maintenance, and it would have reopened Monday anyway, had the fire not occurred. After the fire, the goal was to complete as much of the regular maintenance as possible, he said, while replacing the electrical system to reopen on schedule.

“We have accomplished what we wanted to,” said Fletcher. “As of today, all systems are restored, all our employees are safe, our regular summer maintenance is complete, and we’re making paper. We’ve received tremendous support from the community, our employees and contractors.”

The new electrical system was installed Saturday, and power was systematically restored to the mill on Sunday, leaving the mill ready for regular startup Monday, Fletcher said. While there will be some maintenance items left to complete that would normally have been taken care of during the shut down, all of the work considered critical, such as chimney repairs and maintenance on the mill’s boilers, were completed with the assistance of generators.

The mill has not yet been able to assess the total cost of repairs for the electrical system, and it may be some time before the final tallies are in.

Other than the fact that it was electrical in nature, the cause of the fire remains unknown, according to Bennington Fire Cheif Mike Roina, who spoke with the Ledger-Transcript on Monday. The fire started in and was contained to the main electrical room in the basement of the mill. About 40 employees were in the building at the time of the fire, but all exited the building unharmed.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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