May 20, 2018
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Searsmont fire destroys sculptor’s barn

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

SEARSMONT, Maine — A fire destroyed a prominent local artist’s barn and attached workshops Friday night.

The fire may have started in sculptor Stephen Porter’s woodworking or metal shops around 6:20 p.m., the artist said Sunday morning.

“My neighbor saw it,” Porter said. “He called me and said, ‘Your barn’s on fire.’”

Firefighters from Searsmont, Belmont, Liberty, Morrill, Montville and Lincolnville quickly responded to the neighbor’s emergency 911 call and worked for nearly nine hours to put out the blaze in the barn, Porter said.

An ambulance from Searsmont Rescue was at the scene, but no one was hurt, according to officials.

“It was a total loss, no question there,” Fire Chief James Ames of the Searsmont Volunteer Fire Department said Sunday morning just after he had thawed the last of the hoses used to fight the fire.

The cold weather, problems with the electric wiring, and the fire having reached the barn’s basement complicated the efforts of the roughly 35 firefighters, Ames said.

“We had trouble along toward the end of it,” Ames said. “There was not enough water flowing because it was freezing up.”

Ames said some of the firefighters eventually were able to spray water under the floor of the barn, which helped control the fire. Firefighters cleared the scene at around 3 a.m., Ames said.

“The Fire Department was just great,” Porter said.

According to the artist, some of his newer and older works were lost. A sculptor who works in bronze, steel and wood, Porter, 67, has had exhibitions across the country. Some of his work is on display at the Courthouse Gallery in Ellsworth, the Carver Hill Gallery in Rockport and at Greenhut Galleries in Portland, he said.

Because he had not yet spoken to his insurance company, Porter declined to comment on the value of the lost structure and artwork.

“Tomorrow a bunch of friends are coming to sift through the ashes to see what we can find,” Porter said. “We’re thinking about how we rebuild. Just thinking about ideas.”

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