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Wed, Jun 16, 2021 22:31
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Officials continue to investigate cause of fire at Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids; extent of damage unknown

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wisconsin (From news reports) -- About 60 local firefighters responded to a fire Tuesday night at the Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids.

Todd Eckes, deputy chief/fire marshal with the Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department, said in a news release Wednesday morning a fiberglass stack that was part of the idled hardwood digester at the mill caught fire. Fire and heat compromised the stack and it collapsed, which started fires in and around the digester tower.

The extent of the damage to the mill is unknown at this time, but it appears the fire damage was limited to the stack area in the No. 1 digester building, Eckes said.

Officials continue to investigate the cause of the fire.

A call came in at 8:18 p.m. Tuesday for a commercial fire at the Verso paper mill at 1120 Fifth Ave. N. The caller reported flames coming from the smokestack and possible flames on the roof.

The Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department was assisted at the scene by fire departments from Port Edwards, Grand Rapids, Biron, Nekoosa, Vesper and Rudolph as well as the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department and Saratoga First Responders.

Employees from the paper mill also helped to extinguish the fire.

The fire was under control by 9:45 p.m. and firefighters remained on the scene until about 1 a.m., Eckes said.

One firefighter was treated and released at the scene for symptoms of heat exhaustion. No Verso employees were injured, Eckes said.

Verso has owned the paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids since 2014 when it bought it from NewPage. Verso announced in June 2020 it would indefinitely idle its paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth, Minnesota, and about 900 employees at the Rapids mill lost their jobs in phases by the end of last year.

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