NORWAY — The owner of Oxford Pine Products, which was destroyed in an early-morning fire Tuesday, said he had always carried insurance until the economy forced him to forgo it this year.

Tim Paul said the lack of insurance may cost him his business.

“I don’t know what I’ll do now. I’ll probably sell the property,” he said as he tried to salvage a few items from the burned-out building at 24 Marston St. late Tuesday morning. He and his family have operated the wood products business for the past 33 years, he said.

Paul said because of the poor economy, he recently employed only two people. At one time, he had 20 to 30 employees making bread boxes, spoon racks, corner tables and bookcases, among other things, he said.

The business was started in 1977 by Maurice and Betty Paul who used mostly Maine pine. They also did custom woodworking. More than 100 pieces of wood furniture and items were available for sale on-site.

The building was once used to manufacture snowshoes.

“He couldn’t afford the insurance, but better days are coming,” his neighbor and friend Nora Belliveau said as she and others, including a motorist whose downtown business was destroyed by fire last year, stopped to lend support.

The three-story, wood-frame building, which is estimated to be about 90 feet long and 30 to 35 feet high, was destroyed when fire broke out on the first floor and spread up through the walls, breaking out again on the third floor, Norway fire Chief Dennis Yates said. Because of the building’s “balloon construction,” the fire was able to travel easily from one floor to the next.

“When it gets into the walls, it just goes up,” Yates said. Because of the way the fire spread, the second floor was not heavily damaged, he said.

“No one was hurt,” he said. “That’s what matters.”

Yates, who lives within sight of the building, said he was awake when the tone went off for a structure fire at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

“When I looked out my window, I saw heavy fire coming out of the ventilation system,” he said. That was after hearing the tone for a structure fire from the Regional Communications Center at the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office. The tone for a structure fire automatically sends out firefighters from Norway, Paris and Oxford, he said.

Yates said Norway crews went to the Tannery Street side of the building and saw flames. Crews on the other side of the building also saw flames. A call was put in for Oxford’s 100-foot ladder truck, and for Paris’ and Mechanic Falls’ 75-foot ladder trucks.

Other crews were called in from Waterford, Hebron, Harrison, Woodstock, West Paris and Poland.

Yates said it took several hours to get the fire under control. With the only access to the third floor blocked by fire, it was impossible to try to immediately stop it, he said. Because the building had a metal roof, it wasn’t possible to cut holes through the roof, either, he said.

The building was situated in a residential and commercial area just off Main Street, but no one had to be evacuated from nearby buildings. Power to the area was shut off.

Rowe Elementary School was closed for the day because streets leading to the school were closed off and firefighting equipment was in part of school’s back parking lot.

“We talked about alternative plans, but we ran into parking problems, and with the snow, we decided to make the call to close about 5:30 (a.m.),” Oxford Hills School Superintendent Rick Colpitts said.

Crews left the fire scene at around 11 a.m.

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