Hartland fire leaves four homeless

Posted Sept. 24, 2008, at 11:52 p.m.

HARTLAND, Maine — A blackened skeleton was all that remained Wednesday after a swift-moving fire destroyed the Sam and Alicia Salley home on Ford Hill Road.

The fire was reported at 8 a.m. and emergency responders could see the smoke from Canaan and Pittsfield as fire consumed the two-story wooden home and an adjoining storage ell. All that was left of the ell was a granite foundation and a tin roof, fallen and crumpled.

Fire investigators say the blaze was not suspicious and are calling it an accident.

Fire Chief Donald Neal said the situation was trying for his men because there was an initial belief that children were inside the home. It later turned out that one of the children, age 5, was at school, and the other child, age 3, was with its mother, away from home.

Not knowing that at first, though, firefighters frantically attempted to put out the raging blaze, moving swiftly, but forced to stay outside because the structure was already unsafe to enter. The mood was somber and one could see the concern on the chiefs’ faces. Two horses in a paddock at the rear of the home ran in a frenzy back and forth along the fence.

The fire was out by 10 a.m., and Neal directed his men in-side the structure where they began the search for victims. Within minutes, however, the children’s mother arrived at the home and reassured the firefighters that both children were safe.

Speaking of the age of the structure, Neal said “The fire had dry kindling and it went for it.” When Neal, the first fire-fighter on the scene, arrived, the home was already past saving.

“Boy, this had a head start on us,” St. Albans Chief David Crocker said. “We were hurting for water for just a little bit but then other agencies arrived. It was totally involved when we got here.”

Firefighters from Hartland, St. Albans, Canaan and Pitts-field fought the fire.

The edge of a roof on a nearby barn was slightly dam-aged and there was heat damage to a disabled vehicle in the driveway. A stroller near the home melted, as did a plastic wheelbarrow, leaving just the metal wheel assembly intact.

Three State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators arrived by 10:30 a.m. — Kenneth Grimes, Scott Richardson and Kenneth MacMasters.

By midafternoon, Grimes said the fire appears to have started in the basement of the home but that the damage was so extensive it will be labeled “undetermined.” He said no reason for the fire could be found. “At this point, we are considering this nothing more than an accident,” he said.

Grimes said the homeowner, a family member of the Salleys, had insurance on the building but that the Salleys did not have insurance on the contents.

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