Thomaston fire guts house; two firefighters injured

Posted March 02, 2009, at 1:07 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:03 a.m.

THOMASTON, Maine — It took firefighters more than six hours to put out a stubborn fire that gutted a Hyler Street home Sunday night.

Fire Chief Mike Leo said the family of Tim Couch was able to get out of the house in time, but two of the town’s firefighters were injured when they slipped on ice while carrying a fire hose into position.

The fire at 52 Hyler St. was reported about 5:30 p.m., and fire units finally signed off at midnight, Leo said Monday.

Leo said the fire was called in as a chimney fire, but the home was in flames by the time firefighters arrived. Hyler Street is a few blocks from the fire station.

“When we got there, we had fire from the basement all the way up three floors to the attic,” Leo said. “It was a hard fire to fight because the home was balloon construction and fire just went everywhere, up through the walls and all through the house. It was a long, long night.”

Balloon construction has long framing wall studs that extend from the sill plate to the eave line, thereby extending from the bottom of the first floor to the ceiling level of the second floor. It often is seen in older houses. More modern, platform framing has separate stud-wall systems for each floor.

Leo said four alarms were sounded and fire units from Rockland, Camden, South Thomaston and Cushing answered Thomaston’s call for assistance. St. George and Warren were placed on standby in case backup firefighters were needed.

“We needed help,” Leo said. He estimated that 50 to 60 firefighters helped fight the fire.

Leo said the home was in a neighborhood of tightly packed houses, but fire crews were able to keep the fire confined to the Couch residence.

“At no point were any other houses threatened,” he said.

Firefighters tackled the fire from both inside and outside the building. Leo said he ordered those inside to withdraw when it appeared the second floor was threatening to give way. Water supply was adequate for the ladder and pumper trucks that were called on to fight the fire, he said.

Leo said the lawn around the house was “like a skating pond” on which two Thomaston firefighters were injured when they slipped on the ice while carrying a fire hose. One injured his knee and the other his back. Both were taken by ambulance to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport. They were treated and then released about 2:30 a.m. Monday.

Leo said the Public Works Department brought in a load of sand and junior firefighters used shovels and buckets to spread it around the house for traction.

Leo said it appeared the fire got its start in the area of the wood-burning stove and chimney. Although the home was still standing, Leo said it was gutted and a total loss. He said an investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was expected to be on hand today for an official determination of the cause of the fire.

“We’re just getting them in for a professional opinion. It doesn’t appear to be suspicious,” Leo said.

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