Strong, ME Factory Fire, Dec 1947
$1,000,000 FIRE DESTROYS PLANT AT STRONG.
MAN BURNED AS 300 FLEE -- WOMEN FAINT.
1,000 JOBLESS, 300 AT SOUTH PORTLAND.
Strong, Dec. 4. -- A $1,000,000 fire tonight leveled the principal mill of the Forster Manufacturing Co., world's largest toothpick manufacturers, after an explosion in a separator sent 300 night employes fleeing from the plant.
Several women fainted and MAX MOSHER of Farmington, a foreman, suffered burns of the face and hands. He had to be assisted from the three story wooden mill.
Firemen from five departments kept the flames from spreading to the company garage and nearby residences of employes.
R. J. STEFFINS, vice president of the firm, said the fire started when a toothpick rounder section broke, causing a spark to ignite dust that sent a blaze into the separator. This caused an explosion which sent flames spreading in every direction through the plant.
STEFFINS said that more than 700 employes, there are 400 on the day shift, would be thrown out of work. Another 300 employed at the company's South Portland assembly plant would be made idle, he said.
CHARLES WILSON, an office employe, who lives next door, told of hearing the blast.
"A ball of fire tore through the roof and flames went right through the whole mill," he said.
WILSON said the plant was protected by sprinklers but "there was no stopping the flames."
The WILSON family and several others nearby had to evacuate with all of their furniture.
Fire departments from Farmington, Kingfield, Wilson and New Vineyard assisted the Strong department.
The Forster company is the world's largest manufacturer of toothpicks, and loss of the Strong plant was placed at $1,000,000 by THOMAS W. HODGKINS, brother of THEODORE R. HODGKINS, company president.
Only last month, the firm lost its North Adams plant, leaving intact only a small mill at Phillips and another small plant at South Portland.
Portland Press Herald Maine 1947-12-05