Fire rips through Christmas supplies mailer

Jun 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Kelco Industries, a $5.5 million manufacturer/cataloger of Christmas goods, suffered up to $2.3 million in damages following a fire that ripped through its Milbridge, ME-based merchandise warehouse trailers on April 3. Some 40 of the 60 aluminum trailers that housed wreath-making equipment and supplies were melted.

The company produces 4 million units annually of wire products, which customers affix to their wreaths and decorative candy canes. Those items, stored inside the string of trailers, were ruined, says Kelco owner/president Dugald Kell Sr. But the company’s tree and wreath farm weren’t damaged by the blaze, which reportedly soared as high as 100 feet into the air.

“The fire struck at the money,” Kell says. “But we’re manufacturing and making short-term repairs to get us up and running.” He expects to have the trailers rebuilt by mid-July, “in time for our busy season.”

No one was injured in the blaze, which was so severe that it took nearly 100 firefighters four hours to douse. While Kelco takes virtually no orders at this time of year-nearly all of its business takes place between October and December, Kell says-the company does employ 65 people in the spring to weld wreath wire and produce decorations. (Kelco’s staff swells to nearly 200 during the peak holiday season.)

In addition to producing Christmas wreaths and wire wreath frames, Kelco grows Christmas trees and produces tree packaging equipment and other Christmas decor, which it sells via catalog to suppliers and retailers. The company also sells its home-grown trees, wreaths, and decor direct to consumers via its Sunrise County Evergreens catalog and through brochures. Kelco’s business-to-business catalog, which accounts for nearly 75% of the overall business, mails twice a year to 10,000 regular customers nationwide.

At press time, a spokeswoman for the Milbridge Fire Department said investigators were still unable to determine the cause of the blaze.