PENOBSCOT — A fire early Friday evening completely leveled a single-story home on the Bagaduce River and required the attention of almost every first response unit on the Blue Hill Peninsula, and then some.
The structure was a second home belonging to a New Gloucester couple, according to Penobscot Fire Chief Dennis Robertson.
Neither homeowner was badly injured in the blaze, but the man, Joseph Alley, received treatment at the scene for smoke inhalation and a singed face, Robertson said.
According to Robertson, Alley said the blaze began in a garage attached to his home after he parked a lawnmower near some bales of hay, which started burning. When firefighters arrived, Robertson said, Alley had opened the windows in his home to air out the smoke, inadvertently fanning the flames.
“By the time we got there with the first truck, I could tell right then it was a total loss,” Robertson said of the home. “We never did any interior fighting. It was all just defensive fighting.”
The burn was reported to the Penobscot unit at 5 p.m. The Peninsula Ambulance Corps and the Brooklin, Sedgwick, Brooksville, Castine, Orland and Blue Hill fire departments all provided mutual aid.
With the burning home at the end of Dales Lane, a camp road off Wardwell Point, the crews had to establish a staging area and send trucks in one at a time to assist. Crews stayed for close to five hours, Robertson said.
No responders were injured, but as the temperature plunged, several had to go inside the response vehicles to stay warm.
Hypothermia “was close to being an issue,” Robertson said.
The cold temps also created trouble for their equipment. According to Robertson, three large liquid propane tanks — nicknamed “pigs” — were resting against the burning home. They sprayed the tanks with water to keep them cool enough to not explode.
That required continuous supply trips to a pond several miles away at Dunk’s Meadow in Castine. It also brought their water lines to the brink of freezing.
“It was chaotic,” Orland Fire Chief Bobby Conary wrote on his department’s Facebook page the next day.
As the firefighters sprayed, Conary pointed out, they were “getting covered in ice. People were running back and forth between the hose teams and engines supporting them. Some were bringing in containers of hot drinks on foot… Everyone there was trying to help in whatever way they could.”
The ordeal didn’t end there, as the departments had to perform considerable maintenance when back at their stations, both fire chiefs said. Several of Robertson’s firefighters returned to the scene the next day to spray water and foam on ashes that smoldered throughout the night.
If there was an element of good news, it was that the homeowners had already been planning to return to their main home in New Gloucester that night, so many of their possessions were out of the burning home, Robertson said.