HOWLAND, Maine — A brief shortage of firefighters didn’t stop first responders from knocking down most of a fire that heavily damaged a one-story camping ground lodge Tuesday on Mattamiscontis Road, Fire Chief Phil Dawson said.
The fire, which seems to have started from a ground-floor electrical plug, might have gained the upper hand had not Lt. Rich Lindsay and firefighter Thurlow Harper gone into Penobscot River Cabins’ main lodge and hit the flames with water, Dawson said.
“It didn’t look good at the very beginning,” Dawson said Tuesday. “They did a good job initially and that’s what made the difference. We could have had a problem because we were short of manpower.”
Once the flames on the ground floor were knocked down, Lindsay and Harper left the lodge and started setting up ladders for other firefighters to use when they arrived, Dawson said.
The lodge is heavily damaged where firefighters believe the fire started, a plug box between the living and dining room areas, and in the attic as the fire traveled between walls and into the roof area, Dawson said.
A ridge vent built into the top of the attic helped keep the fire from spreading as the flames fed off the air at the vent.
The building also had extensive smoke damage and some water damage, but it is repairable, Dawson said.
No one was injured.
The fire was reported shortly after 10 a.m., when the homeowner, Mary Randall, called 911. She didn’t at first understand how the fire could have started, given that her wood stove wasn’t operating, but firefighters found the point of origin and saw that a breaker switch had thrown automatically in the cellar, Dawson said.
“We are certain that it started electrically. She had her own generated power and at some time it tripped a breaker serving some type of outlet,” Dawson said.
Eventually, eight to 10 firefighters from Howland and about as many from Lincoln Fire Department, where Dawson also serves as chief, came to the fire, as did firefighters from Seboeis and Passadumkeag. Eight trucks, including Howland’s rescue vehicle, came from the four departments, Dawson said.
Built on more than 300 acres nestled against the Penobscot River, Penobscot River Cabins has eight units, including six cabins, for outdoor camping and recreation, according to the company’s Web site, penobscotrivercabins.com.