Last week Belfast saw a major catastrophe in the fire that claimed Penobscot McCrum’s potato processing plant and put 138 employees out of work. What we lost was not only an important employer, but a key branch of a legacy business owned for generations by the McCrum family, and a community institution.

While we have not heard a dollar figure placed on the loss, it surely is in the millions, perhaps much more. We hope the state will make good on Gov. Mills’ promises to help the McCrums stay in Maine, and in Belfast.

While the tragedy was going on, though, there was also much heroism on the part of firefighters, police, ambulance crews and dispatchers who worked together over more than a day to bring the massive blaze under control, prevent the ammonia tanks from exploding and releasing toxic gas into the air, and secure the scene.

Fire crews from 11 departments responded, including Belmont, Camden, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Searsport, Waldo and West Frankfort. There were also state Fire Marshal’s Office and Hazmat personnel.

In addition, Waldo County Emergency Management Agency took charge of evacuation efforts to make sure those nearby were safe in case of a toxic plume, and three police agencies, Belfast, Searsport and Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, handled traffic, road closures and security.

All of these people gave their best for the good of the city, and we join the rest of the community in thanking them.

As if that were not enough, Belfast City Council took immediate action to provide grocery gift cards to all the McCrum employees on the day of the fire, and invited area residents to contribute to the city’s Keep the Faith Fund to offer additional assistance.

And the staff and administrators of Regional School Unit 71, when their schools were closed and the students sent home to safety, welcomed 65 residents of Harbor Hill Center to Troy Howard Middle School, fed them breakfast and kept them calm and happy.

We would never wish tragedy on our own or another community. But we are proud that when tragedy struck, our community turned out with a will and took care of each other. May that caring for one another be the legacy of this fire.

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