Cause of Patten schoolhouse fire ‘undetermined’

Posted Feb. 02, 2009, at 3:07 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:02 a.m.

PATTEN, Maine — The cause of the fire that destroyed the former Patten Primary School on Main Street on Thursday will be ruled “undetermined.”

Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Monday, however, that officials cannot rule out that a faulty electrical system could have been to blame.

“We are calling it undetermined but we are unable to rule out faulty electrical,“ he said. “We can almost say that it is due to a faulty electrical system, but not quite.”

He said that the spot in question was located in the front corner of the house.

Built in 1905, the five-room kindergarten through grade two school was sold to a town family for $50,000 in 2000. The building was converted into a home and was owned by Richard Will, who lived there with his wife, Sonia, and five children.

Seven fire departments went to the scene to help extinguish the Jan. 29 blaze.

High winds, extremely combustible materials, icy and snowy conditions, and concerns about hazardous material combined to keep firefighters at the scene for the entire day.

The combustible materials were methanol and vegetable oil, which were part of a biofuel operation in the building’s basement.

Reached at The Gateway Inn in Medway on Monday afternoon, Sonia Will said her family has been moving around and has lived at several motels since the fire.

“We are a little cramped, but we are doing well,” she said. “I home school the children, so I am doing everything I can minus the books, which we lost in the fire.”

Will said the family plans to rebuild on the same site and hopes to start in the spring. She said she knows of several fundraisers the community is doing to benefit the family.

“We are just grateful to be alive,” she said Monday.

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