MEDWAY, Maine — State investigators are probing whether an arson that destroyed an abandoned house on Pattagumpus Road early Thursday is connected to at least three other fires in town that they say also were set intentionally.
“At this point, it’s too early to tell whether there are any connections, but we are looking,” Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Thursday.
Investigators have no suspects or clearly defined motives as yet. York advised residents to remain vigilant with their properties and neighborhoods, and if they had any information about the fires to call the State Fire Marshal’s Office at 626-3870.
The latest fire, at 157 Pattagumpus Road, was reported at about 3:50 a.m. Thursday. The first firefighter to arrive, Medway Fire Chief John Lee, got there in his own vehicle at 3:55 a.m. with a department fire engine about a minute behind, Lee said.
Lee said he knew immediately that the house was too far gone for firefighters to risk an interior attack and that the fire might have suspicious origins.
“It was fully involved right down the center of the house,” Lee said of the one-story structure, whose owner, identified as Paul Burleigh, is said to be in Florida on vacation.
The house hasn’t been lived in for three or four years and had no utilities, Assistant Fire Chief Brian McLaughlin said.
With the flames burning through the roof and spreading in all directions, Lee ordered firefighters to surround the building and keep flames from spreading to an adjacent trailer that he said Burleigh lives in when he is home.
East Millinocket and Mattawamkeag firefighters helped battle the blaze with engine companies and tankers, but the flames eventually consumed the building, though the trailer was saved. Ten Medway firefighters responded.
Firefighters, investigators from the fire marshal’s office, state police and an accelerant-detecting black Labrador named Metro spent several hours at the fire scene later Thursday morning. Several samples were collected to be sent to the state crime lab for analysis, York said.
He declined to say what the samples contained.
The parallels that investigators see among the four fires are tenuous but involve a mix of several similarities, including timing, area and methodology. All but one occurred in the vicinity of Salmon Stream and two were reported between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m., Lee said. Three involved abandoned dwellings.
The first fire, in which a pickup truck was destroyed, was reported on Pinkham Camp Road near Salmon Stream at 4:15 a.m. Oct. 28, Lee said.
Two abandoned houses near 988 Medway Road (Route 157) were set ablaze at about 8 p.m. Sunday. One was destroyed, the other damaged.
Then there was Thursday’s fire. Medway firefighters, who are paid to respond to fire alarms but also volunteer many hours, stayed with the fire or at the station for as many as 14 hours on Thursday. They were called back to the scene at about 4:30 p.m. to douse a flare-up.
Lee said he hoped that this fire would be the last in the string.