Death, Damage Left by Fire Leave Paper Mill Shut Down

SARTELL, MN—An explosion and fire on May 28 rocked the Verso Paper plant here, claiming the life of a 50-year-old employee and injuring four others, the St. Cloud Times reported. More than 50 fire departments and other agencies responded to the blaze, which caused substantial damage to the mill’s paper warehouse and infrastructure, including the electrical system.

The victim was Jon Maus of Albany, MN. There was no word to the extent of the other injuries. As for the mill itself, Verso Paper reported its future is not clear.

The 105-year-old mill’s No. 3 coated paper machine is believed to be largely undamaged, although its operability has not been confirmed. Verso estimates it will take several months to make necessary repairs to the mill.

The company says it is continuing its damage assessment and will make a decision on the mill’s future once that assessment is completed.

More than 5,000 tons of finished paper and work-in-process were destroyed in the incident. Verso is working closely with customers to provide alternative paper supplies.

Verso is looking into the origin and cause of the mill explosion and fire. The State Fire Marshal Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Verso’s insurer are also investigating.