SANGERVILLE, Maine — If Piscataquis County Sheriff John Goggin had been there when his farmhouse and attached barn on Silvers Mills Road caught fire late Thursday, he probably would not have made it out alive, his wife said Friday.
Still recovering from the shock of losing what would have been their retirement home, Bonnie Goggin was thankful her husband was at home in Guilford, not there doing renovations, when the fire began.
“It was very special to us. My husband has been there often,” Goggin said Friday. “He usually slept in the room where the furnace was.”
The house’s oil furnace was likely the starting point of the fire, according to Investigator Scott Richardson of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Mrs. Goggin said. Her husband could not be reached for comment.
Fire Chief Charles Bean agreed that a heating source was the cause, but thought it might have been a wood stove. The stove was not lit, Mrs. Goggin said.
The fire appears to have started accidentally, Bean said.
“It was the cold weather that overtaxed that old furnace,” Mrs. Goggin said. “We had been trying to keep the house heated so that the structure would not shift. We were worried about the chimney.
“This was the first winter the house was unoccupied. We thought we were doing the right thing.”
The fire, which was reported about 8 p.m., started in a portion of the house that was attached by an ell to a large barn. When Bean arrived, the fire had already run up a wall into the attic area of the house, he said.
“It was already blowing out the back of the house,” Bean said.
Twenty-two town firefighters responded, he said.
The ice and brutal minus 20 degree conditions made fighting the fire especially hazardous, Bean said. He rotated firefighters through the heated cab of a firetruck to ensure that they didn’t suffer from exposure. At one point he had to switch trucks when hoses and pumps froze.
None of the approximately 50 firefighters from Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford and Kenduskeag were hurt fighting the blaze, Bean said.
The sheriff told firefighters that he checked daily on the farmhouse, which was heated by the oil furnace. Anticipating the cold night, he said he had turned up the thermostat earlier Thursday to make sure the pipes wouldn’t freeze. No one was living in the home, he said.
Among the destroyed items in the house were antiques and furniture that Goggin and his wife had collected over the years, including some bought from the previous homeowners, Selma Howell of Dover-Foxcroft and the late J. Wilson Howell, when they bought the house in July. Two boats, motors, trailers and some antique farm equipment were stored in the barn.
“It’s all gone, all gone … Everything,” Mrs. Goggin said. “It’s been surreal. We had hoped that at least the barn could have been saved. That barn was majestic.”
Goggin has said he had insurance on the building but expected it would not cover the total loss.