MECHANIC FALLS — As flames destroyed an old mill in Mechanic Falls on Sunday afternoon, a group of volunteers and employees from local businesses worked to keep dozens of firefighters — some responding from as far away as Gilead — fed, hydrated and warm.
At about 2 p.m. Sunday, as news spread of the fire’s scope and severity, the volunteers transformed the local American Legion into a relief center for firefighters and other emergency workers.
“We’re a community that takes care of people,” said Brenda Coffin, who has volunteered at American Legion Post 150 on Elm Street for 30 years. “There was an outpouring of help.”
Throughout the afternoon, volunteers loaded trailers, trucks and ATVs with water, coffee and Gatorade, delivering them to firefighters and those handling traffic at the fire on Lewiston Street.
The Legion post was open all night, and as temperatures dipped to near freezing, firefighters packed into the Legion to drink coffee and get warm.
Many of the volunteers worked off and on throughout the blaze, juggling jobs and commitments with making sandwiches and other home-cooked food for the emergency workers.
“The firefighters were thankful,” Coffin said.
Firefighters from the Mechanic Falls Fire Department were the first to respond to the blaze, and many volunteers knew those battling the fire.
Many local businesses made donations, including DaVinci’s Eatery in Lewiston, Daddy O’s diner in Oxford and the Hannaford supermarket in Mechanic Falls.
Coffin said the Salvation Army brought donated clothing for the two families who had apartments at the mill.
Larry Roy, owner of Dad’s Place, a Mechanic Falls gas station and restaurant, donated 40 large Italians, eight giant pizzas and 12 gallons of coffee to the emergency workers.
“We’re a small community, and my livelihood is based here,” Roy said. “All of our customers are affected by the fire.”
Coffin said she was reminded throughout the night of the ice storm of 1998, saying the Legion back then also became a hub of support and relief.
“When there’s a crisis, you do what you need to do,” Coffin said. “It’s a small town, but we do the best we can.”
Cases of bottled water are stacked Monday afternoon at American Legion Post 150 in Mechanic Falls. Throughout the fire, the Legion served as a hub to assist firefighters and other emergency workers. The leftover water will be donated to Vineyard Church in Mechanic Falls. (Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal.)