ABBOT, Maine — When duty calls, Greenville Town Manager John Simko and Greenville Police Chief Scott MacMaster respond — even if they aren’t dressed for the occasion.
The pair had been headed to an annual law enforcement meeting held by the Piscataquis County commissioners Tuesday when they crested a hill on Route 15 and spotted a “big, black plume of smoke” rising skyward.
“That’s not good,” MacMaster recalled saying before the two made a detour onto Forest Brook Drive, a road about halfway between Monson and Guilford. The two found a mobile home in flames, so they quickly radioed to alert the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department.
The occupants of the mobile home, Jeff Pearl and Angela Alfonso, were not at home when the fire began. The couple, who had no insurance, were being assisted Tuesday by the American Red Cross.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office, which was called to investigate, reported that an investigator could not determine the fire’s origin because of the extent of damage.
“It was the right time, the right place, and wrong situation,” MacMaster said of his and Simko’s response.
Upon their arrival, Simko said, he broke out a window in the rear of the building and yelled to find out if anyone was inside. When no one responded, the two set about to try to minimize the damage around the building.
“We were relieved nobody was in the house,” MacMaster said.
MacMaster said he grabbed a shovel and used it to tamp out the fires that had jumped onto the grass while Simko moved a gas grill, gasoline cans and an all-terrain vehicle away from the building.
“We saw and heard pretty significant sparking and crackling of electricity,” Simko said. Fortunately, the outside electrical meter had a shutoff switch, which they shut off, he said.
When Monson firefighters arrived, Simko grabbed a fire hose and helped hold it down for firefighters. MacMaster used his vehicle to ferry firefighters from the main road to the mobile home to avoid damaging the fire hoses on the remote, narrow road.
Before the two left for the meeting in Dover-Foxcroft, Pearl had arrived and told them that a cat and dog were inside. The animals were believed to have perished in the fire.
Guilford firefighter Mike Nichols said the mobile home was a total loss. Monson, Dover-Foxcroft and Sangerville firefighters assisted Guilford firefighters at the scene. Greenville firefighters remained on standby at the Monson station, and Dexter firefighters remained on standby at the Sangerville station.