If at first you don’t succeed, try a different method.

While workers struggled to explain what went wrong Saturday with the failed implosion of a heating plant at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone — touted as the state’s largest-ever implosion — employees of Engineered Products of Portland were back on the job Monday, pulling down the building’s remains.

“There was obviously a miscalculation,” said Jennifer Gregor, operations manager of Engineered Products, which oversaw the implosion. “But we have not received a definitive answer from Precision Explosives, (the subcontractor hired to handle the implosion), and we are not comfortable speaking on their behalf.”

Dave Evans, owner of Precision Explosives of New York, didn’t return a phone message seeking comment. But at least one man had a theory about what happened.

Hayes Gahagan, project manager for Loring BioEnergy, which owns the heating plant property and hired Engineered Products, said Precision Explosives likely underestimated the strength of the building.

“The central heat plant was built during the Cold War to withstand bombs,” Gahagan said. “It was supposed to be bomb-resistant and, as we proved, it was literally bomb-resistant.

“I was there when they asked Precision, ‘Are you sure you’ve got enough explosives?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ So my take is that they completely underestimated the structural strength of that plant,” Gahagan said.

On Saturday, about 300 people made the trip to the former military base in northern Aroostook County — now known as the Loring Commerce Center — to watch the historic implosion.

Most of them had cameras and cellphones ready, and Engineered Products touted it as the “Maine Event” on information sheets it gave out to the crowd.

Shortly after 11 a.m., the sound of explosions filled the air.

It was supposed to take about six seconds to drop the four-story, 90-foot-tall building.

But when the dust cloud settled, the 64-year-old structure still stood.

Two of the plant’s four 230-foot-tall smokestacks tumbled to the ground and the building dropped 18 feet and teetered, but it never fell, Gregor said.

On Monday, more of the building started coming down.

Using heavy cables, bulldozers and excavators, employees of Engineered Products collapsed the two remaining smokestacks.

They planned to have the rest of the building demolished within three or four days, Gahagan said.

Gregor said it will take 10 weeks to completely clear the site.

Despite the failed implosion, Gahagan praised Engineered Products, saying it responded positively to the problem and moved quickly to address it. He called Engineered Products “a family company” and “terrific people.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the way they reacted,” Gahagan said. “We weren’t on a tight deadline, so it won’t set us back. If I could hire them again, I’d do it in a minute.”

Not everyone, however, was thrilled with Engineered Products. Mark Hall, owner of MC Hall Demolition of Portland, one of Engineered Products’ competitors, said it wasn’t wise to start pulling down the building immediately.

“After incidents like this, you need to have a few cups of coffee … and think about your next step,” Hall said. “Jumping right back in without fully assessing the situation is dangerous.”

Hall, whose company does large-scale demolitions but didn’t bid on the project in Limestone, said that pulling an unstable building down endangers the workers.

“I hope nothing bad happens,” he said, “but I don’t think they should be doing that.”

Gregor wouldn’t give specifics on the safety issues involved in pulling down a partially imploded building, but said, “We’re taking every necessary precaution to ensure safety.”

She also wouldn’t say whether Engineered Products will still pay Precision Explosives. “I think we’ll deal directly with them on that issue,” she said.

Loring Air Force Base, just five miles from the Canadian border, closed in 1994.

Its central heat plant once supplied heat to more than 10,000 military personnel and civilians.

Loring BioEnergy, which now owns 54 acres of the former base, plans to use the property to build “new energy infrastructure.” It’s part of a 200-mile corridor from Searsport to Loring that will be part of a private energy project, Gahagan said.

For Saturday’s implosion, Precision Explosives used 290 pounds of dynamite and 105 blasting caps. But the central heat plant contained 5,000 tons of steel beams.

“When I saw it still standing, I thought, ‘Those Air Force engineers must be proud,’” Gahagan said. “That’s one tough bird.”

Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:

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